In the lower reaches of the Yangtze and on the shores of Lake Taihu lies the 2500-year-old city of Suzhou, the cradle of Wu culture. The name "Wu" often applied to refer to Suzhou, derived from the local tribes who named themselves "Gou Wu" in the late Shang Dynasty about 11th century BC. Later, King Helu of Wu State in 514 BC built his capital here known as the "Great City of Helu" and since then the city's site and scale have remained virtually unchanged, making Suzhou a rare city of historical and cultural renown in the world.
Situated on 30.47-32.02 degrees north latitude and 119.55-121.20 degrees east longitude and bordering on Shanghai in the east, Zhejiang Province in the south, Lake Taihu in the west and the Yangtze in the north, Suzhou enjoys a mild and humid climate and is easily accessible by water, land and air communications.
Talking about Suzhou, people would mention the old saying: "Paradise in Heaven, Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth." Since there can be places elsewhere compared to paradise, the saying does not specify the style of Suzhou lies in "Softness", like the tone of Wu dialect, which also sums up the character in feminine beauty, tenderness, serenity, sutlety and elegance.
The natural scenery of hills and waters in Suzhou is as charming as a delicate beauty. Of the whole area, 10 per cent is cultivated fields, 30 per cent hills, and the rest covered with water. Streets and alleys in Suzhou extend side by side with canals. Small bridges and flowing waters, white walls and dark grey rooftiles match one another in tranquil elegance. As a poem describes, " On arriving in Suzhou you behold: Houses are all pillowed on water's edge." The gentle waters make the prominent urban scenery.
The poetic and picturesque Suzhou gardens are a typical demonstration of simple elegance, with intriguing scenes found in every season and in all weathers. The Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lingering Garden in the city are listed in China's Four Most Famous Gardens and exert great influence on China's and even the world's garden architecture. Endowed with abundant native products, the rich and exquisite Suzhou cuisine sets a style of its own on this "land of plenty". The traditional performing arts of Suzhou are best represented by Kunqu Opera, Suzhou Opera and Pingtan (ballad singing), reputed both in China and overseas for their minute acting and harmonic melody. The folks here are honest, good-natured, friendly and hospitable.
A metropolis of industry and commerce in the south-eastern coast of China since ancient times, Suzhou has always been a hub for merchants, which as the Tang poet Bai Juyi described over a thousand years ago : "...has a population greater than Yangzhou Prefecture and more than half of the shops in Chang'an, the capital." The Italian traveller Marco Polo praised Suzhou 600 years ago as a "noble and great city". The classic novel " Dream of the Red Mansions " written 200 years ago sets the beginning of the story in Changmen, a prosperous area outside the city gate of Suzhou, depicted as a "prime social congregation of the rich and cultured."
See: China Paradise Tour