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  • Other Names: Soochow
  • Chinese/Japanese: 蘇州 (Sūzhōu / Soshû)

Suzhou is a major city in China's Jiangsu province, located near the mouth of the Yangtze River, just west of Shanghai. One of the major cities of the Jiangnan region, it was traditionally one of the chief centers of "southern" Chinese culture. Suzhou is famous especially for its gardens, and a great many Chinese gardens outside of China are patterned after those in Suzhou. The city has been highly regarded since ancient times, being featured in the famous saying "Above there is Heaven, but here on Earth, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou" (上有天堂, 下有蘇杭, Shàng yǒu tiāntáng, xià yǒu sū háng).

The State of Wu was based in that area in ancient times, and the region continues to be called "Wu" today. For example, the Ming Dynasty Wu school of painting was based in Suzhou.

In the Tang Dynasty, Japanese embassies to China departed for their return to Japan from Suzhou.[1]

In the mid-14th century, the people of Suzhou, Hangzhou, and the surrounding region raised particular resistance against Zhu Yuanzhang and the Red Turbans; after Zhu became Emperor (founding the Ming Dynasty), he implemented various policies punishing the region. Over the course of the ensuing decades and centuries, however, the region recovered, becoming a densely populated center of commerce.[2] Silk was a particularly significant industry in the area. This demographic and commercial growth continued through the Qing Dynasty.

The Donglin Academy, a prominent center of political thought, was established in 1604 to the northeast of the city.

A significant site known as Tiger Hill (虎丘, Hǔqiū) sits in the northwest of the city. The shape of the hill is said to resemble a crouching tiger. The hill is also said to be (or contain) the tomb of Helü, King of Wu (r. 514-496 BCE), and it's said a tiger appeared and crouched there during his funeral.[3]


  1. Gallery labels. Imperial Envoys to Tang China : Early Japanese Encounters with Continental Culture Exhibition. Nara National Museum. April through June 2010.
  2. Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 242-267.
  3. Ono Masako, Tomita Chinatsu, Kanna Keiko, Taguchi Megumi, "Shiryô shôkai Kishi Akimasa bunko Satsuyû kikô," Shiryôhenshûshitsu kiyô 31 (2006), 236.