History of Suzhou was recorded in 150 volumes, begun by the scholar Fan Wenzheng in the Song dynasty. It was constantly updated and added to, and the last edition was published in1824, with an addendum written in1882 recording the events of the Tai-ping Rebellion, when during the worst fighting three-quarters of the city was destroyed and 70 per cent of the inhabitants were killed.
The beginnings of Suzhou go back to500 BC and the Warring States period when He Lu the Prince of Wu, by then a powerful state, ordered his prime minister to build him a capital city. Suzhou was designed on a grand scale with gates and walls. The town grew steadily and thrived for a few hundred years, although apparently fell prey to bandits and robbers and it -was removed for awhile to another site during the early part of the sixth century.
However, during the Sui and Tang dynasties it saw a tremendous growth in wealth and reputation, and it was at this time that the phrase ‘Above is Heaven, below are Suzhou and Hangzhou’ was coined. The main source of its wealth was silk production. The city expanded and there is still a stele in Suzhou with a plan of the city during the Song dynasty.During the Ming dynasty the city was more important than Shanghai. During the Song it had been known as Pingjiangfu, and in the Ming dynasty the name Suzhou was restored to it; the city walls have now been demolished, but during the Ming they were strengthened. In the early seventeenth century an uprising was staged by silk workers against their employers.
Throughout its history Suzhou has been renowned as a cultural centre; it had an extraordinary success rate in the imperial examinations, and ex-luminaries of the court would retire here to commune with nature and each other. Bai Juyi, the famous Tang dynasty poet, lived here, and during the Ming dynasty the Wu School of Painters were the most admired in the land. It was a stronghold of the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-nineteenth century. Although Suzhou was never a con-cession city, several missionaries made their homes here, setting up schools and so on.
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