Suzhou - The Paradise on earth

suzhou3.jpg - 7632 Bytes Located on the ancient Grand Canal in Jiangsu province, Suzhou is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in China. As the Chinese saying goes 'there is paradise in heaven, and Suzhou-Hangzhou on earth'. Located only an hour away from Shanghai, Suzhou is a popular tourist attraction for both Chinese and foreign visitors. Suzhou is well known for its canals, gardens, and silk. UNESCO has listed four of Suzhou's classical gardens as World Heritage sites. Suzhou today is under government protection as a historical and cultural treasure.
Suzhou City Ratings
** The following ratings are based on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.
History(7) Art(10) Local Culture/Unique Tour(4)
Nature/Scenic(7) Food/Shopping(7) Night Life(3)
Religion(2)   Adventure/Sports(4) Reasonable Cost(6)
Recommended Days of Stay: 1

Quick Facts
Population - 5.7 million
When to go
Coldest Months - January, with temperature as low as -9C;
Hottest Months - July and August, with temperature as high as 36C;
Annual Precipitation - 1063 millimeters (mainly from May to September)
Getting Around
By Taxi - Taxi rates are high in Suzhou, a small city.
By Bicycle Rickshaw - Suzhou can be reached by train in one hour from Shanghai and in 3.5 hours from Hangzhou.
Getting In and Out
By Air - Suzhou only has a small military airport with several flights to Beijing and Foshan.
By Train - Suzhou can be reached by train in one hour from Shanghai and in 3.5 hours from Hangzhou.
By Bus - Suzhou is about one hour away from Wuxi by bus.

History


The first recorded town built on the current site of Suzhou was established in 514 BC. Shortly after that, canals were built in town for drainage. Silk weaving was well developed in Suzhou in the Tang and Song Dynasties. Marco Polo visited in the 13th century and proclaimed it the 'Venice in the East'. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, many rich officials built extravagant gardens here as their retired home.

During the last hundred years or so, Suzhou's gardens and buildings have suffered from the destruction of wars as well as the Cultural Revolution. Today most of the historical sites have been restored and are under government protection. With the founding of the 70 sq km Sino-Singapore-Suzhou Industrial Park immediately to the east of the city limits, Suzhou is quickly becoming an important center for foreign investment.



Art
Silk Museum * * * * *
The Silk Museum is worth a visit in Suzhou, the city known for its silk production. The museum display starts from live silk worms being fed, and follows through the natural progression silk production by the traditional method. You can also watch the skilled workers while they spool the silk off cocoon, prepare the thread, weave and polish the cloth.

Humble Administrator's Garden (Zhuo ZhengYuan) * * * * *
Humble Administrator's Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan) is the largest and most famous classic style garden in Suzhou. The garden was built by the retired Ming official Wang Xianchen in a period of 16 years during the 16th century. After serving the Ming Emperor for most of his life, Wang decided to return to simple life, believing that 'planting trees, watering gardens and growing vegetables are the humble man's administration', hence the name. The garden covers an area of 4 hectares, three-fifths of which is water. In fact, all its main architectures are built on the banks of ponds and streams. For its natural simplicity and unique style, it is considered the "quintessence of gardens".

Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan) * * * *
Considered one of the four most famous gardens of China, the Lingering Garden was also built in Ming Dynasty in the 1500s. The garden covers an area of 3.3 hectares. Among the attractions here are the Nanmu Hall, known for its spaciousness, the Mandarin Duck Hall, exquisitely beautiful, and the "Peak Above the Clouds", actually a huge piece of rock, reputed to be the largest single rock south of the Yangtze River ever to be hauled from a lake. The garden is intricately designed providing a changing scene at every turn.

Master of Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan) * * * *
Built in the 1100s, Master of Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan) is a masterpiece of landscape compression. Set back off the main road and hidden at the end of a blind alley, the Master of Nets Garden was built as a contemplative retreat. Rimmed by galleries of carved stone tablets and poetic inscriptions on wooden plaques, the Master of Nets Garden is a relic of Old China.

In summer time, the Master of Nets Garden is a major spot for night life when all the palace lanterns are lit and music performance of all sorts are presented in different pavilions within the garden.


Lion Forest Garden (Shizilin Yuan) * * *
The Lion Forest Garden (Shizilin Yuan)was built in 1350 during the Yuan Dynasty. Featured with oddly shaped rocks brought in from the Tai Lake, the Lion Forest Garden is one of the four most famous gardens in Suzhou with traditional Chinese styles. You can find rocks that look like any of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac. The garden was once owned by the grand-uncle of American architect I.M. Pei.

Surging Waves Pavilion (Changlang Ting Yuan) * *
Built in the late Tang Dynasty, the Surging Waves Pavilion is the oldest classical garden in Suzhou. The garden served as a Buddhist nunnery in the Yuan and early Ming Dynasty. It is not as popular as other gardens in Suzhou, therefore, Surging Waves Pavilion is a good spot for a relaxing stroll.

Joyous Garden (Yi Yuan) * *
Built one hundred years ago, the Joyous Garden is the newest in Suzhou. It has taken the best of all other gardens and condensed them into one acre.

Local Culture/Unique Tour
Institute of Embroidery * * * *
Suzhou Embroidery is one of China's four famous schools of embroidery. With a history exceeding 2000 years, Suzhou embroidery is considered the "pearl of oriental art" for its beautiful designs, varied stitches, superb workmanship and elegant colors. This institute conducts research in Suzhou embroidery and is where many of the gifts presented by Chinese leaders to foreign dignitaries come from.

Nature/Scenic
Tiger Hill (Huqiu) * * * * *
Known as the number one scenic spot of Suzhou, Huqiu is a hill in the northwest outskirts of the city. 26 meters high and covering an area of 20 hectares, it boasts 18 sites of natural beauty and historical fame. Among them are the Hall of Broken Beam, the Honest Spring, the Sword Testing Stone, each with an interesting story behind it. On the hilltop is an octagonal pagoda seven stories high. Towering 47.5 meters over the city, this ancient pagoda, built in 961, has become the symbol of Suzhou. It's known as the 'leaning tower of Suzhou'. Under the pagoda is the legendary grave of Suzhou's founder, Hu Lu. His arsenal of 3000 swords is also said to be buried here and protected by a white tiger.

Food/ Shopping
Shopping for Unique Local Products
Suzhou Sandlewood Fan Factory, The Jade Carving Factory, Dong Hu Silk Factory Store

Religion
Cold Hill (Hanshan) Temple * *
Cold Hill Temple west of the city was the home of two Tang monks, Han Shan and Shide. The original bell in the temple was stolen by Japanese and replaced later by Japan with a bell cast about 100 years ago. People come here on New Year's Eve to hear the bronze bells chime 108 times, which local people believe will keep away all troubles in life.

 

 

 
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