Suzhou is silk, gardens, and Green Snail Spring.
That is: Biluochun (碧螺春//bi4luo2chun1), which is yet another of China’s most famous teas. It’s so named because it’s a green tea, rolled into a spiral resembling snail meat, and harvested in early spring. This tea has a very light, sweet flavor with a delicate floral aftertaste. Many experts rank this tea just as highly as Hangzhou’s Longjing.¹
Suzhou is also renowned for fine silks and embroidery. The Suzhou-style (苏绣//Su1xiu4) has a history of over 2000 years and is noted for its pastel coloration and masterful depiction of environment scenes like flowers, birds, animals, and gardens.² The tiles were taken at a small gallery showcasing the silk embroidery.
The classical gardens of Suzhou are a UNESCO World Heritage site and well-loved tourist destinations at any given time. These gardens, built during the Northern Song Dynasty until the late Qing Dynasty (11th-19th century), have nearly a thousand years’ history. Mostly built by wealthy scholars, they mimic in microcosm natural scenes of mountains, hills, rivers, and forests.
Arguably the best and most prominent of the city’s classical gardens is the Humble Administrator’s Garden, which seamlessly melds natural scenes (eg. plots of flowers or trees) with human architecture (pagodas and stained glass windows). Once you’ve been here, all other gardens pale in comparison, really.
You won’t enjoy the handcrafted beauty in solitude, though — you’ll enjoy it in noisy peace and collective excitement. You’ll have to be patient if you want to take a photo of the scenery without other tourists in the shot (if that’s your MO). In comparison, you might not have to wait as long to be pointed out as a laowai (if that’s your MO). The photos below I took while venturing off the main path to the behind-the-scenes bonsai potting area.