Suzhou Museums

Kunqu Opera in Suzhou China
Kunqu Opera Museum

While Suzhou’s beguiling landscape is a living example of the city’s history, culture and heritage, some of Suzhou’s most significant relics remain behind closed doors. From ancient artifacts to modern architecture, and from Kunqu opera to fine-spun silks, uncover the wonder that makes Suzhou a treasured destination. Visit also the Top 10 Attractions for more Things to Do.

History and Culture

Suzhou’s own I.M. Pei, an internationally recognized and award-winning architect, traveled back to his hometown to design and build one of Suzhou’s most popular attractions. Located deep in the historic district adjacent to Humble Administrator’s Garden, the Suzhou Museum appeals to lovers of art, architecture and culture. Free to visitors, the museum showcases a vast collection of ancient ceramics, cultural relics and woodcarvings, not to mention the handsome lotus pool at the museum’s center. View I.M. Pei: Building China Modern

Just around the corner from the Suzhou Museum is the Suzhou Garden Museum. Located inside Humble Administrator’s Garden in the Gusu District, discover the reasoning, history, techniques and styles behind Suzhou’s abounding classical garden culture. The Suzhou Arts & Crafts Museum, housed in the historic Shangzhi Tang building dating back to the Qing dynasty, boasts an impressive assortment of modern art and crafts created by skilled Suzhou artisans. From delicately carved jade to sinuous Ming-style furniture, the collection is both brilliant and diverse. Stop into the gift shop and bring a piece of handcrafted Suzhou home with you.

Performance Art

Along a maze of tapered roads is the Kunqu Opera Museum, dedicated to the area’s distinct style of opera. The antique theater houses a collection of musical instruments, costumes and photos to help tell the story of Kunqu — believed to be the ancestor of all forms of opera. Adjacent to the opera museum is the Pingtan Museum, a place to learn, listen and watch this ancient form of storytelling. Don’t miss an elegant performance sung in the traditional Suzhou dialect — shows happen daily at 1:30 p.m.

Overlooking Jinji Lake in Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), find the Suzhou Arts and Culture Centre, billed as Suzhou’s premier performing arts venue. More than just a few Kunqu performances atop a grandiose stage, the Arts and Culture Centre boasts a Cineplex with an IMAX theater (the only national five-star cinema in Suzhou), an art museum, a cultural center and more.

Silk and Embroidery

Silk production is a delicate and painstaking process the people of Suzhou have unequivocally perfected — in fact, Suzhou is known as the silk capital of China. One visit to the Suzhou Silk Museum and you’ll know why. A series of galleries guide you through the silk-making lifecycle, from silkworm cocoon to thread spinning, while a workshop reminiscent of days past reenacts the golden era of Suzhou silk making. Visit the Top 10 Attractions page for more information.

Suzhou embroidery is among the oldest and most renowned in the world. The Museum of Suzhou Embroidery Art showcases an impressive collection, from Emperor Qianlong's intricate imperial robe to tapestries so advanced the works resemble three-dimensional paintings. In the workshop, watch craftsmen demonstrate their skills as they create stunning masterpieces using the finest silk threads — some can even execute the incredibly complex double-sided embroidery technique, producing a different image on either side.

Featured Tour Packages

13-Days : Gardens, Culture, History, People, and Nature

13-Days : Gardens, Culture, History, People, and Nature

Day 11 - 13 : You will visit the Urban Planning Exhibition and Shanghai Museum, a world-class museum with a collection of bronze, jade, pottery, ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, old coins, and furniture. Tour the Lingering Garden (Liuyuan) and Tiger Hill Pagoda (Huqiu Shan) including the Bonsai (Panji) Nursery on the grounds of Wanjing Villa. After lunch visit the Master of the Nets Garden (Wangshi Yuan) and Blue Wave Pavilion (Canlang Ting).

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10-Days : Idyllic Water Towns

10-Days : Idyllic Water Towns

Day 7 - 8 : Garden art is one of the region’s most famous cultural expressions, and Suzhou is home to its greatest gardens. Here the Chinese literatis have integrated architecture, water and rock, and painting into a unified spiritual expression.

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11-Days : Enchanting China

11-Days : Enchanting China

Day 9 - 10: Suzhou, which dates back to 514 BC, is sometimes called the "Venice of the East". And visit Shan Tang Street, which has always been regarded as the first name of Suzhou ancient streets. It has a long history of about 1,100 years, its layout and architecture are the best to represent the characteristics of Suzhou's old alleys, and it has connections to many ancient Chinese celebrities and anecdotes.

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Expert Tips:

Humble Administrator’s Garden is one of China’s finest, the centerpiece of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that comprises nine classical Suzhou gardens. Visitors during spring and summer may attend the azalea or lotus festival. Adjacent, the Suzhou Museum is the latest masterpiece of China’s most famous architect, I.M. Pei. For transportation, take tourist buses No.1, 2 or 5.

Traveling with children? Don't miss the Suzhou Amusement Park at Junji Lake with zipline ride, a dancing water fountain show on weekends and one of the world's tallest Ferris Wheels. The 60 cabins carrying a total of 300 passengers take 20 minutes per rotation, providing great views of the lake and the Suzhou skyline.

Currency in Suzhou, and throughout China, is abbreviated as CNY for Chinese Yen or as RMB for Renminbi. Along with 13 other major currencies, US dollars can be exchanged at all the outlets of the state banks of China at the same rate. Bring a passport to make any transaction.

Known as the "Silk Capital of the World", those keen to see silkworms in action can be guided through the process from mulberry leaves to finished product at Suzhou No. 1 Silk Mill. The region's temperate, subtropical zone that's ideal for deciduous mulberry trees has supported 5,000 years of silk cultivation.

Picturesque canals, stone bridges, temples, gardens and pagodas make the ancient city of Suzhou one of China's top tourism destinations. Calligraphy carved onto Tiger Hill rocks indicate that it has attracted visitors for thousands of years. A Song Dynasty poet, Su Shi, said, "It is a lifelong pity if having visited Suzhou you did not visit Tiger Hill."

In Suzhou, the regional Chinese language is called Wu, the subgroup is called Taihu, and the local dialect, one of nine, is known as Suzhounese, considered one of the most elegant, flowing in all of China. Most people are bilingual in Mandarin used in schools, because Suzhounese is not mutually intelligible with either Mandarin or Cantonese.

Atop Tiger Hill, the Yunyan Pagoda, nicknamed the Leaning Tower of China, stands as a symbol of Suzhou. Completed during the Song Dynasty in the year 961, the 1,000-year-old pagoda is taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa and has become a symbol of Suzhou. The 3-degree tilt means that since 2010, visitors are no longer permitted entry.

Visit an authentic Buddhist monastery and temple just 3 miles west Suzhou old town. The temple has been well-known since the Tang Dynasty of the 7th and 8th centuries. Take bus No. 3, 6, 9, 17, 21, 31, 301 or Y3 and get off at Fengqaio Station.

Suzhou Railway Station, one of China's busiest, dates back to 1906. Now throughly modernized, the fast train connection with a design speed of 217 miles per hour covers the 52 miles to Shanghai in a journey of only a 24 minutes.

One of the best ways to tour the "Venice of the East" is from a front row seat on a hand-steered canal boat. Afterwards, stop into 130-year-old Pin Von Teahouse for exotic teas served in private booths on the second floor. It overlooks Pingjiang Lu, an 800-year-old lively pedestrian street, one of China's "National Historic and Cultural Streets."