Discover 2,500 years of history in Suzhou, China

Suzhou, China with Style

Photograph: Suzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism
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In association with Suzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism


Do you know which city has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China?

That's right!
It's SUZHOU!

Known as the “Venice of the East,” Suzhou is one of the oldest cities in the Yangtze Basin dating back more than 2,500 years. Generations of Chinese artists, scholars, writers and high society were drawn to its exquisite art forms and the delicate beauty of its gardens. Follow this article, and trace back to history and discover Suzhou’s romantic water towns, famous canals, world-class museums and thousand-year-old temples.

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When you close your eyes and imagine a perfect Chinese garden, you’d be hard-pressed to dream up one more sublime than the classical gardens of Suzhou. With its elegant arrangement of tranquil ponds, jagged rockery, overhanging trees and scenic pavilions, the classical gardens of Suzhou boasts a series of exquisite views that gradually spread out like the unrolling of a traditional scroll painting. As the largest of Suzhou’s classical gardens, the Humble Administrator’s Garden was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

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Suzhou also benefited greatly from the construction of The Grand Canal, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014. By the 13th century it consisted of more than 2,000 km of artificial waterways, linking five of China’s main river basins. It has played an important role in ensuring the country’s economic prosperity and stability and is still in use today as a major means of communication.

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It’s amazing that Suzhou still sits on the site of a city that was built a thousand years ago. There is a remarkable ancient city ichnography called “Pingjiang Map”, which depicts the Suzhou of ancient times. We are fortunate enough to still be able to tour the city along this old map. Suzhou was called “Pingjiang Prefecture” during the Song Dynasty, so the “Pingjiang Map” shows us what the city was like at that time. It is incredible to see that the layout of the current ancient Suzhou is almost the same as the original map. The place maintains its ancient forms of transportation by both land and water called the “Double Chessboard Pattern”.

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More than 50 miles (80 km) of scenery and wonder flank the waterway, including hundreds of old-world river dwellings, ten ancient city gates and twenty-plus stone bridges, which include the famous City Moat and the Wumen Bridge.

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Now we have come to the famous Panmen Gate in Suzhou. It is said that looking north you’ll see the majestic Great Wall, but looking south you’ll see the magnificent Panmen Gate. The name of Panmen has been prevalent since ancient times, and the fact that it can appear alongside the Great Wall is a testament to its charm and influence.

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Another better way to absorb more than 2,500 years of history is to visit one of Suzhou’s fascinating museums. A longstanding history of silk production remains an integral thread in Suzhou’s cultural fabric. Guests of the Suzhou Embroidery Museum can experience the silk lifecycle by watching the artisans hard at work, beginning with harvesting the silk (from silkworm to cocoons), before moving on to preparing the silk and finally spinning the thread.

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Our last destination is the Baoen Temple Pagoda, which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Chinese history. With a history for more than 1,400 years, the Baoen Temple Pagoda was fully established during the 6th century. It covers an area of over 870 square meters and stands 76 meters high. It has a nine-story brick structured body, wooden eaves, eight facets, and staircases built in the space between its inner and outer walls.

After this virtual tour, are you excited about Suzhou too?

Come on!
Let's get real!

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