Nicknamed the "Venice of the East" for its network of canals, historic Suzhou is situated in the lower reaches of the River Yangtze and on the shores of Lake Taihu. As well as its historical and cultural heritage, the city is renowned for its immense natural beauty.

The star attractions here are its 60 magnificent classical Chinese gardens, the most famous of which are the Humble Administrator's GardenLingering Garden, and Net Master's Garden.

For more than 800 years Suzhou was the capital of the Wu kingdom and a major centre for China's silk industry, a position it continues to hold today and something which can be explored in more depth at the extensive silk museum. When the Grand Canal linked inland Peking (as it was then) and Hangzhou, on the South China Sea, Suzhou found itself in a position of huge strategic importance. The main artery between northern and southern China was used to transport grain and other commodities, as well as being a conduit for cultural exchange and political integration.

Suzhou is around a two hour drive from Shanghai, or it can be reached via Bullet Train in 30 minutes. It can also be combined with a visit to a nearby ancient water town, such as Tongli or Luzhi.

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