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Location : Home > Chinese Cities > Suzhou > City in a Glance --- Garden City
Suzhou

   

Area: 8,488 square kilometers
Population: 5.51 million

Average temperatures and rainfall:
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Temp. (F)
30 35 47 56 67 77 80 78 66 56 44 33
Rain(inches)
3 3 3 4 6 8 12 10 7 6 4 3

Situated in the southern part of the Yangtze River Delta and built as early as 514 B.C., Suzhou is known primarily as the Venice of the East and the City of Gardens. It has remains of the city wall (including land and water gates), old-style houses (with tile roofs and white-washed walls) lining the canals, as well as temples, pagodas, and gardens of special historical interest. There is the manmade magnificence of the Grand Canal flowing by the city in addition to the natural beauty of places such as Lake Tai, the East Hill, Yu Hill, Sky-Flat Hill, and Divine Rock Hill. Suzhou is also celebrated for its paintings, calligraphic art, silk embroidery, sandalwood fans, jade carvings, lacquer ware, and other crafts.

When the Grand Canal was completed during the Sui Dynasty (589-618), Suzhou found itself placed strategically on a major trading route. Commerce flourished, and Chinese aristocrats along with famed scholars and painters set about building elegant villas and gardens. Suzhou's garden art has developed dramatically since the Pi Jing Garden of the Eastern Jing Dynasty. There were once over 200 gardens in the city; 69 of them are still well preserved. Beyond the city limits, in regions south of the Yangtze, many more private gardens have been built in imitation of Suzhou's classical garden archetype.

The Suzhou garden originated from the desire to retire from the stress and strife of officialdom--in other words, to shun worldly affairs. In the cultivation of the garden, one seeks a return to nature and a refinement of human temperament, much in line with Taoist philosophy. Hills and ponds; flowers and trees; and pavilions, terraces, towers, and halls constitute the basic garden elements, while the predominant tone is expressed in the dark color of roof tiles, the gray of bricks, and the chestnut brown of wooden pillars.

The unfolding of garden vistas is something like the opening of a landscape scroll. While enjoying tea, reading poetry, admiring flower arrangements, or playing a musical instrument in the garden, one is often surprised by the seeds of a most natural inspiration--an insight that has inspired the phrase, "There is heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below." For many tourists desiring to understand China as fully as possible, Suzhou gardens offer one of the best museums.