Suzhou (苏州; Sūzhōu) is a city in Jiangsu province. It is famed for its beautiful gardens and traditional waterside architecture. The Classical Gardens of Suzhou were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
Suzhou was the capital of the kingdom of Wu from the 12th to 4th centuries BC. Historically, it was the center of Wu culture, and the Suzhou dialect of the Wu language is still considered the standard dialect even though the language is now often called "Shanghainese". 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 heaven 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.