Life in China

Suzhou, Jiangsu Province

Suzhou is one of China’s most charming canal cities located in Jiangsu province just 45mins north of Shanghai by bullet train. The city was once said by Marco Polo to be one of China’s most beautiful cities and today still maintains the charm of its luscious gardens, the same gardens that had Marco Polo in awe. Today Suzhou is a bustling modern city with a large expat community.

Location and Population

Suzhou lies in the Yangtze Delta, bordering Shanghai in the east, Zhejiang Province in the south, Lake Taihu in the west and the Yangtze in the north. Its east longitude is between 119’55″ and 121’20″ and its north latitude is between 30’47″ and 32’02″ with an altitude of about 4 meters. The total area of Suzhou is 8488.42 square kilometers, 2.7% of that mountainous; 42.5% under water. The land under cultivation occupies 288160 hectares. Built- up urban areas cover 1,650 square kilometers. Suzhou is composed of Suzhou Downtown and 5 county-level cities. Suzhou Downtown contains seven Districts: Wuzhong, Xiangcheng, Pingjiang, Canglang, Jinchang, Suzhou Industrial Park and Suzhou New Hi-tech District. The 5 county-level cities are Changsu, Kunshan, Taicang, Wujiang and Zhangjiagang. Suzhou has a population of 5.8 million, of which 2.1 million live in urban areas.

History and Culture

Suzhou, the cradle of Wu culture, is one of the oldest towns in the Yangtze River Delta region, which retains much of its original character. 2500 years ago in the late Shanghai Dynasty, local tribes who named themselves “Gou Wu” lived in the area which in time would become the modern city of Suzhou. After the completion of the B However, the city also faced difficult times; during the 1860′s Suzhou was occupied during the end of the Taiping rebellion and then again in World War II.eijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal the city began to thrive. Suzhou served as the centre of silk trade along the bustling waterway. Marco Polo once marveled at the city’s prosperity and recorded that its inhabitants were comprised of “prudent merchants, and, as already observed, skilful in all the arts”. Polo noted that a number of the Suzhou people were learned in natural science, were good physicians and able philosophers. In Polo’s words the city of Suzhou was “great” and “noble”. During the Ming dynasty (1368 -1644) with an increased concentration of silk manufacturers based here, Suzhou became a leading silk fashion center.

With the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Suzhou has once again rightly reclaimed its fame and developed into one of the most prosperous cities in China. As far as tourism development is concerned, it has been chosen as one of China’s 24 historical and cultural cities and is one of only four tourist cities with top environmental protection (the other three being Beijing, Hangzhou and Guilin). In 1997, Suzhou caught the world’s attention by having its classic gardens placed on the UNESCO list as a World Cultural Heritage site. Since then, tourism has grown along with a burgeoning economy.

Transport

Suzhou has many convenient transport options to and from the city. The quickest and most convenient way to get to Suzhou is bytrain. There are fast trains to and from Shanghai that take just 45 mins, there are also more regular trains that take one hour. The train station also serves as a transport hub to major cities all throughout China.

Along with the trains Suzhou has a good long distance bus network with three bus stations, north bus station (Qi Che Bei Zhan), south bus station (Qi Che Nan Zhan) and west bus station (Qi Che Xi Zhan). It takes approximately 1.5 hours by bus to reach Shanghai, tickets are slightly more expensive then train.

Download Suzhou City Guide

Getting Around

Suzhou is a convenient city to get around with an efficient network of busses. It is also a good city to get around by bicycle with many paths particularly along the canals though driving in the cities traffic can be somewhat of an adventure. Taxis can be found easily enough with fares starting at 10RMB.


Shopping

Suzhou is a great shopping city with numerous markets selling traditional handicrafts to big shopping malls like the Suzhou Incity Plaza which has many western brands and products including WallOmart, H&M and Gourmet food stores.There are also a few foreign language bookshops that stock a range of English books.


Food

Traditional Suzhou food also known as Su Cuisine is one of the 8 famous cuisines of China.Su cuisine is characterized by stews, sautés and stir-fries with a slight sweet flavor.Suzhou’s most famous dish is duck braised in soy sauce, also famous is cherry pork and steamed squirrel mandarin fish.   Aside from the local cuisine, foods from all regions of China are readily available as well as many western restaurants including TexMex, various Italian/Pizza restaurants, various steak houses and a Fish n’ Chips shop.


Nightlife

Suzhou is a great city for nightlife with many bars,clubs, pubs and restaurants.The most famous bar strip is Shi Quan Street home to the very popular Harry’s Bar with cheap drinks and live music.For a more Chinese experience KTV Karaoke bars can be found all over town.


Attractions

Suzhou is a famous historical city with many temples, pagodas and gardens dating back centuries. The real draw card for Suzhou is its charming old canals, traditional Chinese architecture and its many world famous gardens including the Blue Wave Pavilion dating back to the 11th century, the delightful smaller Couples Garden and the most impressive of all the Humble Administrators Garden.  There are many tourist busses that run  between gardens and other major attractions.