Back to Home
just experience | just sights | just blah | just write
all photos, travelogues and journals are made available for non-commercial use only. © 2000 JSL
Map of China



Suzhou, with a population of 800,000 people, literally means the "Awakening Prefecture", but in the ancient times, it has a different character, which meant "Fish and Rice".

Location on the Grand Canal, 80 km west of Shanghai, Suzhou is one of the oldest towns in the the Yangzi Basin, with a history stretching back 2,500 years ago. Originally a city in the State of Wu, during the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC), it was named Wuxian (Wu County). In 589 AD, it was renamed Suzhou when the Sui dynasty conquered southern China and it was made a prefecture. With the completion of the Grand Canal in 609 AD, Suzhou grew rapidly as a center of shipping and grain storage. So much rice was grown around Suzhou in the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279), that there was a popular saying "When Suzhou produces everyone has enough."

Marco Polo visited Suzhou in 1276, described it as 'great' and 'noble', and mentioned that its population included great sages, physicians, and magicians. By the 14th century, Suzhou was China's leading silk producer. The wealthy inhabitants of this time created many beautiful gardens, of which over 100 survived. By the 15th century however, the oppressed silk workers were staging violent strikes, and the silk industry began shifting its focus away from Suzhou.

Suzhou is fortunate in that it did not suffer greatly from the cataclysms of the 19th and 20th centuries: the Taiping Rebellion, Japanese occupation, and the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76. Because of the proliferation of canals and bridges through Suzhou, it bills itself as "Venice of the East". However, it is also very industrialized, supporting enterprises in the fields of electronics, machinery manufacturing, optical instruments, boat building, and chemical works. Today Suzhou is once again one of China's silk reeling and weaving centers (along with Wuxi), and it is renowned for its fine silk knit goods.