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Beautiful lakes and canals aplenty

THREE-THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, has earned its reputation as the "Pearl of Taihu Lake" because it's on the shore of the beautiful lake. Wuxi has also been dubbed "little Shanghai" because of its close proximity to the city and its fast urbanization and booming economy.

It has become a popular tourist resort and the government has made the sector a key focus for its development blueprint. The plan calls for developing tourism around the city's natural scenery, ancient canal, Wu-style culture, as well as commercial and industrial civilization.

To better protect the environment to sustain tourism, Wuxi has closed more than 3,000 chemical factories around Taihu Lake and earmarked 200 billion yuan (US$29.27 billion) to protect its ecology.

It has managed to reduce the proportion of its heavy industries to 55.5 percent of its total with 43.6 percent now featuring high-tech manufacturing.

The service sector accounted for 42.7 percent of the city's total gross domestic product. In a further step, Wuxi plans to boost the service industry, including tourism sector, to 50-70 percent of the city's GDP. It aims to be one of the country's top 10 tourism cities.

To reach the aim, Wuxi plans to raise the annual revenue of the tourism sector to 80 billion yuan in three years, attracting 900,000 overseas visitors as well as 80 million domestic tourists each year.

To make tourism more attractive, the city has spent 20 billion yuan since 2007 to develop eight tourism parks, five historic streets and 10 ancient villages. Upon completion, the entire investment is expected to reach 32.3 billion yuan.

Last year, Wuxi received 43 million domestic visitors, up 17 percent from 2008. Its tourism revenue reached 62 billion yuan, an increase of 19 percent year on year.

Both growth rates are higher than the Jiangsu Province average.

It also received 661,000 overseas tourists last year, a 1.8 percent rise from the previous year. Each tourist spent an average of US$227 a day, the highest among 13 major Jiangsu Province cities.

Wuxi is divided into two areas by Taihu Lake. The northern half looks across over the Yangtze River while the southern half borders Zhejiang Province.

The city is typical of many older Chinese cities. Its main canal still sees heavy barge traffic.

Huishan clay figurines are one of Wuxi's handicraft specialties.

Famous Wuxi dishes include Wuxi-style spareribs, sweetened pork dumplings and fried gluten.

Grand Buddha at Lingshan

Standing at the south of Lingshan Mountain, near Wuxi's Mashan Town, is the 88-meter Grand Buddha, one of the largest Buddha statues in China and the world's ninth-tallest statue.

It weighs more than 700 tons. It was completed at the end of 1996. In 2008, Five Signets Palace and Brahma Palace were built southeast of the grand Buddha statue.

Xishan, Huishan hills

Xishan and Huishan literally mean "Mountain of Tin" and "Mountain of Kindheartedness," but they are actually two small hills in the west of Wuxi. Here you will also find the classic royal Jichangyuan Garden as well as the renowned Tianxia Di'er Quan (Second Best Spring in the World).

Taihu Lake

Taihu Lake is on the border of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. Its waters belong to Jiangsu in its entirety with part of its southern shore forming the boundary between the two provinces. With an area of 2,250 square kilometers and an average depth of 2 meters, it is the third-largest freshwater lake in China, following Poyang and Dongting lakes.

The lake is home to about 90 islands, ranging in size from a few square meters to several square kilometers. Three of the islands are known as the Sanshan Islands (Three Hill Islands), one of the country's national geological parks. It was a notable haunt of bandits.

The lake is also the origin for a number of rivers, including Shanghai's Suzhou Creek. In recent years, Taihu Lake has been plagued by pollution due to rapid economic growth in the surrounding area. But the situation is improving as the city government has invested to clean up the water and shut down polluting factories.

Wuxi was built on the shore of Taihu Lake. Famous spots around the lake include Yuantouzhu (the Islet of Turtle Head) and Taihu Xiandao (Island of the Deities).

One of the best locations to view the lake is Xihui Park in the west of Wuxi. By climbing up to the Longguang Pagoda (Dragon Light Pagoda) inside the park, people will get a view of the city and the lake.

Yuantouzhu is another good spot for tourists. It received this name because it is in the shape of a turtle head. It has more than 10 scenic sites to visit.

The Grand Canal

Taihu Lake is linked to the Grand Canal.

The Grand Canal in China, also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, is the longest canal or man-made river in the world. Starting in Beijing, it stretches through Tianjin and the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the city of Hangzhou. The oldest sections of the canal date back to the 5th century BC.

The various parts were finally connected during the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618).

The Grand Canal is 1,776 kilometers in length. The canal's size and splendor have drawn admiration from many people throughout history, including the Japanese monk Ennin (AD 794-864), the Persian historian Rashid al-Din (1247-1318) and the Korean official Choe Bu (1454-1504).


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