Built in 541BC by He Lv, the King of Wu, 2500 year old, Suzhou is the birthplace of Wu culture. The 8,483km2 city is bustling with historical remnants and culture, thus placing Suzhou third behind Beijing and Xi'an for its historical and cultural significance. It has been named as one of China's top 24 historical and cultural cities and is only one of the four tourist cities with environmental protection (the other three being Beijing, Hangzhou and Guilin). In 1997, Suzhou caught the world's attention by having its classic gardens placed on the UNESCO list as a World Cultural Heritage site.
Suzhou is a key silk production centre in China and the embroidery school here is ranked in the "top 4" for the whole of China.
The attractiveness of Suzhou is also evident in its performing arts (folk songs of Wu), Kunqu Opera and storytelling, as well as stele carving, calligraphy and painting.
Dating back to more than 2,500 years, Suzhou is one of China's oldest cities. After the completion of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal the city began to thrive during the Sui Dynasty.