Population: 2.2 million
Suzhou is probably Jiangsu Province’s most popular attraction. It is famous for both its gardens and its silk industry. The name Suzhou was first officially used for the city in AD 589, during the Sui dynasty. It derives from the "Su" of nearby Gusu Mountain combined with the common -zhou suffix, a term for a Chinese settlement.
As the cradle of Wu culture, Suzhou is one of the oldest towns in the Yangtze Basin. As early as 2500 years ago in the late Zhou Dynasty, local tribes already lived in the area. In 514 BC, during the Spring and Autumn Period, King Helü of the State of Wu established his capital at Helü City on the site of present-day Suzhou. In 496 BC, King Helü was buried in Huqiu (Tiger Hill). In 473 BC Wu was defeated by Yue, a kingdom to the east which was eventually annexed by the State of Chu in 306 BC. Remnants of this culture include remainders of a 2,500-year-old city wall and the city gate at Pan Gate. When the Grand Canal was completed in Sui dynasty (581-618), Suzhou found itself strategically located on a major trade route. In the course of the history of China, it has been a metropolis of industry and commerce on the south-eastern coast of China.
The town itself is built on a network of interlocking canals whose waters feed the renowned classical gardens that are the city’s pride and glory. It is one of the most enjoyable cities in China for simply roaming without particular purpose.
Suzhou’s gardens reflect the true essence of a Chinese garden’s “infinite riches in a little room”. The designer works with rock, water, buildings, trees and vegetation to produce something very different to the western conception of a garden. The purpose is not to imitate life, but create a serious art form that aims to produce a setting for the contemplation of balance, harmony, proportion and variety in life. There have been gardens in Suzhou since the Song dynasty (over 1000 years) and it is said that there were once more 200.
Suzhou has a four-season, monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate with hot, humid summers, and cool, cloudy, damp winters with occasional snowfall. Northwesterly winds blowing from Siberia during winter can cause temperatures to fall below freezing at night, while southerly or southwesterly winds during the summer can push temperatures above 35 °C (95 °F).
Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuozheng Yuan) 拙政园
Built in the Ming Dynasty by Wang Xianchen, an imperial censor who had just
resigned. It is one of the largest and possibly the most famous of Suzhou’s
gardens, covering 4 hectares and is based on water. (70Y)
Lion Grove Garden (Shizi Lin) 狮子林
Built by the monk Tianru in 1342, in honor of his teacher who lived in Lion Crag in Zhejiang province. The rocks are supposed to resemble lions of all shapes and sizes. Once chosen, the rocks were submerged in Tai Hu for 40 years to be further eroded. They impressed the Qing emperors so much that the gardens of the Yuanmingyuan 圆明园 in the Old Summer Palace in Beijing were based on them. (20Y)
Also : the Garden of Harmony (Yi Yuan) 怡园 and Dark Blue Wave Pavilion (Canglang Ting) 沧浪亭
Master of Nets (Wangshi Yuan) 网师园
A tiny, intimate garden started in 1140 and restored to its present layout in 1770. It is considered by connoisseurs to be the finest in Suzhou. A cultural performance in the garden in the evening, but the garden is also well worth a daylight visit. (Entry 30Y)
Tiger Hill 虎丘
It is a popular tourist destination and is known for its natural beauty as well as historical sites. The hill is so named because it is said to look like a crouching tiger. Another legend states that a white tiger appeared on the hill to guard it following the burial of King Hélǘ of Wu (阖闾). The hill has been a tourist destination for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, as is evident from the poetry and calligraphy carved into rocks on the hill.
Hanshan Temple 寒山寺
Hanshan Temple(Cold Mountain Temple) is a Buddhist temple and monastery in Suzhou. It is located near Fengqiao (Maple Bridge), about 5 kilometres west of the old city of Suzhou.
Grand Canal 大运河
Whilst much of the work for this mammoth engineering feat was completed during the Sui Dynasty (581-618), the initial length of approximately 85km is said to have been completed around 495BC. Once stretching from Beijing to Hangzhou the 1800 km canal was built to link the Yangzi river rice growing regions with Beijing. (Bus 13,14 or 15, 10km from Town)
North Temple Pagoda (Beisi Ta) 北寺塔
Opposite the Silk Museum. The pagoda was originally built in the 3rd century and rebuilt in 1582. Only 9 of the original 11 storeys remain, but it is still the highest Chinese pagoda south of the Yangtze at 76 meters. There is a great
view from the top and a very pleasant teahouse in the garden. (Entry 25Y plus 7Y to climb the Pagoda. 8am-5:30pm)
Temple of Mystery (Xuanmiao Guan) 玄妙观
A Taoist temple founded in the 3rd century which has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times. It consists of a vast entrance court leading to the enormous Sanqing Hall (1811) supported by 60 pillars and capped by classical Chinese architecture of double roof with upturned eaves. (10Y)
Twin Pagodas 双塔院
Part of the Arhat Temple complex, the pagodas are the ruins of a Buddhist temple founded by three brothers in 1410. Laid to waste during the early Republic the pagodas were restored in 1954 and the surrounding structural remains in 1982.
Suzhou Silk Museum 苏州丝绸博物馆
Dating from the Tang Dynasty, silk remains one of Suzhou’s most important sources of income. The museum traces the development of silk production and its use from its legendary inventor (the concubine of Emperor Huang Di) to the present day. I includes reproductions of early silk patterns, as well as actual fragments and displays of early weaving machines. (Entry Free)
Opera: ( 评弹 )
Many people might know he famous Beijing opera, but the unique originates in the Suzhou region, as does the much later Suzhou Opera. Ballad-singing, or Suzhou pingtan, is a local form of storytelling that mixes singing (accompanied by the pipa and sanxian) with portions in spoken dialect.
Museum of Opera and Theater 戏曲博物馆
A superb Ming dynasty theater constructed of latticed wood with the raised stage on the 2nd floor of a large pavilion (beneath a spiraling wooden dome) and open-air pit and galleries to all sides. Occasionally used for demonstration performances, the rooms are filled with costumes, masks and musical instruments.
China is the birthplace of silk, and still produces some of the finest silk in the world. In all of China the best place to discover the wonder of silk is the city of Suzhou. It was there that some of the first silk embroideries originated, and Suzhou is still producing the best silks in China. Suzhou embroidery is listed one of the "Four Famous Embroideries" with embroidery of Hunan, Sichuan and Guangdong. Suzhou tapestry method is done in fine silks and gold thread.
Currency Exchange 兑换
There is a large Bank of China 中国银行 on the corner of Yan’an Lu 延安路 & Qingchun Lu 庆春路 in the center of town.
You can make international calls from the hotel or at China Telecom.
Post Office 邮局:
The main post office is located at 487 Renmin Lu 人民路 on NW corner at Jingde Lu 景得路.
Check out Tiger Hill Pagoda
(Yunyan Ta) a 1050 year oldtower that leans to one side.
Distances in Suzhou are fairly great. Take a taxi,pedicab or hire a bicycle.
Eating & Entertainment
Local Specialties 特色菜
Suzhou has a long history in pastry making, glutinous rice flour is the main ingredient. A famous traditional Suzhou pastry is the New Year cake.
Just out of the hotel and to the left are some great local noodle places, or about 5 mins walk to the right are a couple of dumpling places that also do other dishes and hve English menus, including the Yangyang Shui Jiao Guan dumpling house. Look for the “Recommended by Lonely Planet” signs. Plenty of bars along Shi Quan Jie 十全街.