Whether you approach Suzhou (formerly Soochow) from Nanking or from Shanghai, you will pass through the closely cultivated land of the Yangtze delta area, crisscrossed with canals and irrigation ditches. Clusters of white peasant houses rise from fields of yellow rape oil seed or purple alfalfa, and then the pagodas of Suzhou loom into view. The city streets are narrow enough for the trees to form a continuous. Leafy bower, with shadows dappling the passers-by below. Most of the houses are traditional in style, single-storied or sometimes two-storied, largely whitewashed or with a wooden fascia. Doors open on to cool, dark rooms, and beyond there is often a courtyard. Many houses give on to canals, which have earned Suzhou the sobriquet ‘Venice of the East’. Small humped-backed bridges characterize the town, and some where along many of these streets are discreet doorways – perhaps only discernible from the bicycles parked outside and a small ticket kiosk, which lead to the restful gardens which have long been the pride of Suzhou, each one a mirror image of the style of bygone days.
The climate is typical of the region the winters are dry, and the temperature rarely falls below freezing, except in January (
Today the city depends on light industry and agriculture, with silk and textiles still the most important sources of wealth. Modifying its former role as supplier to the imperial court, Suzhou has a wide range of handicrafts -embroidery, sandalwood and fans, and mahogany furniture. The population of Suzhou is half a million: the municipality extends to the edge of Lake Tai and enjoys the benefits of the fish harvest and the rich soil. A commune visit is of interest if you want to observe fish farming and silk production.
Suzhou is on the railway between Shanghai and Nanking; the journey takes about one and a half hours from Shanghai. There is a small airport between Wuxi and Suzhou which is used mainly for VIPs. Suzhou is
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