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History and Culture

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2011-09-10

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Suzhou, the cradle of Wu culture, is one of the oldest towns in the Yangtze River Delta region, which retains much of its original character. 2500 years ago in the late Shanghai Dynasty, local tribes who named themselves “Gou Wu” lived in the area which in time would become the modern city of Suzhou. After the completion of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal the city began to thrive. Suzhou served as the centre of silk trade along the bustling waterway.

History and Culture
Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal

Marco Polo once marveled at the city’s prosperity and he recorded that its inhabitants were comprised of "prudent merchants, and, as already observed, skilful in all the arts". Polo noted that a number of the Suzhou people were learned in natural science, were good physicians and able philosophers. In Polo’s words, the city of Suzhou was "great" and "noble". During the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) with an increased concentration of silk manufacturers based here, Suzhou became a leading silk fashion center.

However, the city also faced difficult times; during the 1860's Suzhou was occupied during the end of the Taiping rebellion and then again in World War II. With the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Suzhou has once again rightly reclaimed its fame and developed into one of the most prosperous cities in China. As far as tourism development is concerned, it has been chosen as one of China's 24 historical and cultural cities and is one of only four tourist cities with top environmental protection (the other three being Beijing, Hangzhou and Guilin). In 1997, Suzhou caught the world's attention by having its classic gardens placed on the UNESCO list as a World Cultural Heritage site. Since then, tourism has grown along with a burgeoning economy.

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