I’ve only been “to” Suzhou once, and I’m not even sure it counted because all I did was visit a factory in one of the many industrial zones of the city. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to see and experience the legendary beauty of the city.
Situated in Jiangsu Province, and sometimes known as the “Venice of the East,” Suzhou is an ancient city famous for canals and gardens. Its proximity to Shanghai has allowed it to get in on the economic boom driven by China’s rise as a global manufacturing base. This means that, in addition to the canals and gardens, Suzhou is also a city of gleaming skyscrapers and vast industrial zones, as evidenced by this video:
Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, was brought to Suzhou by western missionaries in the 19th century. Today there are a number of registered Protestant churches, as well as a fellowship for expats called Suzhou International Fellowship, which meets at the Dushu Lake Christian Church.
Interestingly, the city does not have an airport; it is serviced by the two airports in nearby Shanghai. With the advent of the bullet train, it is now only a 30-minute ride from Shanghai Hongqiao airport/train station to Suzhou. Also, some of the bullet trains that run between Beijing and Shanghai stop in Suzhou.
As I wrote in my post about Suzhou’s “twin” city Hangzhou, the beauty of Suzhou is memorialized in Chinese literature with the famous phrase “上有天堂，下有苏杭。” (Shang you tiantang, xia you su-hang). “In the sky there is heaven, down below there is Suzhou and Hangzhou.” I guess that is a way of saying that Suzhou is heaven on earth.
That point may be debatable, but it is still a city worth visiting.
For more information on the city and what to see and do there, I recommend checking out these sites:
Image credit: by chris_UK, via Flickr
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio
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