Suzhou and the Grand Canal in the Rain!

This was a day of sightseeing—our destination was Suzhou, located about 100 miles SW of Suzhou (“Su” -” fish, rice and grass”; “zhou”- “state” or “city”) is a booming city of 7 million with a history of some 2,000 years. It was mentioned by Marco Polo in reports of his visit to China in the 13th century! The “grass” refers to mulberry bushes, the staple of the city’s silk industry.

Our first stop was the 1,000-year old Fisherman’s (“Master of the Nets”) Garden, formerly owned by a wealthy Suzhou gentleman, Mr. Li, but taken over by the newly-established communist government in the 1950s. This garden, a smaller replica of which exists at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is an aesthetically-pleasing combination of trees, rocks and water.

The next stop was the No. 1 Silk Mill, a city-owned silk spinning and weaving factory established in 1926—connected to the usual retail outlet for the finished products. After lunch we were told of the life cycle of the silk worm and learned about the complexity of silk-making.

Our last stop in Suzhou was the Grand Canal, the man-made structure dating from about 850 AD. (We understand that American astronauts remarked that China’s Great Wall and the country’s Grand Canal were the only two man-made objects visible from space!)The Grand Canal, extending a few hundred miles from Hangzhou and Suzhou to Beijing, was constructed to facilitate the transport of products originating in south China—rice, tea, silk—to a demanding royal family and other government officials in Beijing. Today only about two-thirds of its length remains navigable. We were ushered onto a motorized craft with capacity for perhaps 25 passengers and treated, despite continued light rain, to an interesting 45-minute trip up and back on the Canal.

Jim from Beijing