Pingjiang Road in Suzhou

Today we’re continuing with our major series, exploring some of the most famous streets in China. In this programme, we’re taking you to the city of Suzhou, in southern China. Lying on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, beside Lake Taihu, Suzhou is often referred to as the ‘water city’. In fact, it lies on a vast network of canals, so that the relationship between the city and its waterways is often likened to that of a human body with its blood vessels. Today, the old part of Suzhou centred around Pingjiang Road in the northeast, remains little changed since the time of the Song Dynasty, some 800 years ago. There, stone bridges, flowing waters and meticulously designed gardens intertwine with each other to form a picture of idyllic charm.

Pingjiang Road, Suzhou, China

For many centuries, much of Suzhou’s cultural life has been centred on Pingjiang Road. It’s been the site of bookshops and local opera theatres. There are also many teahouses, where people gather for performances of Pingtan, a kind of storytelling and ballad singing in the local dialect.

Not far from Pingjiang Road is Cangjie Street, once the centre of the city’s prosperous silk industry. Today, the weaving machines that were once a feature of every home, can only be found in museums.

Modernization does not simply mean destroying all that is old. In a sense, it means revitalizing the old for the benefit of modern people. These days, Pingjiang Road is attracting more and more young people, who come to sit and enjoy the rich cultural heritage of the area, and get a sense of its great history.