Suzhou, Soochow (both: sōˈjōˈ) [key], or Wuxian wōˈshēĕnˈ, city (1994 pop. 710,900), SE Jiangsu prov., E central China, on the Grand Canal near Tai Lake. Suzhou, famous for its silks since the Sung dynasty, is still a silk center; it also has cotton and embroidery manufactures and food-processing, pharmaceutical, and computer and electronics industries. On the city's outskirts are a small integrated steel complex and plants making chemicals, paper, machine tools, and motor vehicles.
Suzhou was capital of the Wu kingdom in the 5th cent. B.C., from whence it derives the name Wuxian; it was renamed Suzhou in the 6th cent. A.D. The city was almost destroyed in the Taiping Rebellion but was quickly rebuilt. In 1896, it became a treaty port. It was occupied by the Japanese in World War II, and in 1949 it passed to the Chinese Communists. Suzhou is famous for its beauty, with many canals crossed by arched bridges and many of the finest traditional private gardens in China. A nine-storied pagoda there (c.250 ft/80 m high) is among the tallest in China. The city has several institutions of higher learning; the Suzhou Museum was designed by I. M. Pei.