Suzhou was the capital of the kingdom of Wu from the 12th to 4th centuries BC. Historically, it has been the origin of Wu culture, which later nurture the city of Shanghai.
Today, Suzhou has become a core city of China's Yangtze River Delta economic zone, given its high GDP contribution to China. More recently, it has been a center of the silk trade and a place of gardens and canals. Suzhou has long been a haven for scholars, artists, and skilled craftsmen, and this is still the case today.
In its many beautiful gardens and courtyard parks, Suzhou's ancient heritage has been preserved. This ambitious city, however, is not going to trade upon its past in order to meet the future. A wander off the beaten path and into some of the old neighborhoods can be quite a treat, but their seediness and crowded conditions provide a stark contrast to the endless billboards at the edge of the city advertising Orange County like suburban developments. Suzhou is a bustling city, though you can still see traces of a very old lifestyle centered around the canals.
So come prepared to feel a bit betrayed by the guidebooks singing the praises of a quaint thousand year old city. On XiBei Road thoroughfare, every other storefront advertised foot massages. It seems that half the city are masseur/masseuses and the other half are potential clients.
At the same time, Suzhou has grown into a major center of joint-venture high-tech manufacturing and currently boasts one of the hottest economies in the world. It is the world's largest single producer of laptop computers. The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in the east, and the Suzhou New District (SND) in the west, are home to factories from numerous North American, European, East Asian, and Australian companies.
Major industrial products include microchips, flash memory systems, electronics, computer equipment, telecommunications components, power tools, speciality chemicals and materials, automotive components, pharmaceuticals, and much more. This makes for a sense of stark contrasts, the outskirts of town were farmland just ten years ago. Now there are four lane highways connecting the city to Shanghai...four lane highways with pedestrians, bicyclists and pedicabs using the breakdown lanes.
Now your family can enjoy a virtual tour to Suzhou City in two languages (Mandarin Chinese and English) with concealed subtitles in Chinese and English as well, a perfect way to learn Chinese language and Chinese culture. All the menu options are in English and Chinese.