The city of Suzhou lies in Jiangsu province, not far from Shanghai. The city has a long history and was designated the capital of the Wu state in 514 B.C. Later, the city benefited from the completion of the Grand Canal in the 5th century A.D. The Grand Canal connected the city of Hangzhou to Beijing and greatly facilitated transportation and trade within China. Many smaller canals were built within Suzhou itself and the city has often been compared to Venice.
But Suzhou is perhaps most famous for its classical Chinese gardens. Many of these were built by the wealthy inhabitants of Suzhou during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911 A.D.) dynasties. The gardens have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The owner of one villa was so meticulous that he actually built four separate gardens, one for each season. The scenery in each garden was designed to evoke a different season. Sitting in one of Suzhou’s gardens, you can easily imagine what the life of a Chinese gentleman must have been like. Afternoons composing and reading poetry, combined with enjoyment of the highest quality teas, in gardens of exceptional beauty and peacefulness.
Suzhou can be reached by train from Shanghai in as little as half an hour. By car, the journey could take around 1 ½ hours, depending on traffic conditions. Suzhou, along with Hangzhou, would make an excellent day trip from Shanghai. While you’re in Suzhou, you might also visit the Suzhou Museum. The architecture was designed by I.M. Pei and deftly combines classically Chinese features with the contemporary.