Lake­side Wuxi high­lights its nat­u­ral charms, rich cul­ture

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WUXI SPECIAL - By CHEN YINGQUN and ZHOU FURONG

Known as the pearl of East China’s Taihu Lake, Wuxi city is un­der­go­ing a se­ries of ren­o­va­tions to at­tract in­ter­na­tional visi­tors and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Lo­cated in South Jiangsu prov­ince, Wuxi is a city built along the Taihu Lake, and it has many wa­ter­ways run­ning through it, pro­vid­ing a con­ve­nient trans­porta­tion sys­tem to com­ple­ment its other ad­van­tages, like rich nat­u­ral re­sources.

Since the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644), it has been a large mar­ket­place for rice, clothes and silks. At one point, it was the rich­est city in the an­cient China.

Wuxi has been rec­og­nized as the most liv­able city on the Chi­nese main­land, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

With an ex­ten­sive trans­porta­tion sys­tem and close prox­im­ity to cities like Shang­hai, Nan­jing and Suzhou, the city man­ages to main­tain a ro­bust econ­omy, mak­ing it an ideal home for many medium and small en­ter­prises.

In 2012, the city’s to­tal out­put value reached nearly 756.8 bil­lion yuan ($124 bil­lion) and its GDP per capita $ 18,700, rank­ing first in Jiangsu prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

Many ma­jor multi­na­tion­als have also set up fac­to­ries or re­gional head­quar­ters in the city.

Now the city is plan­ning to build on its strengths as a liv­able city to at­tract peo­ple and keep them there. The plan in­volves three big projects to be com­pleted in the next few years.

“We will make great ef­forts to build a new city that will be a center for high-tech and emerg­ing in­dus­tries, a tourism is­land that has world-class ecol­ogy and scenery and a cul­tural belt that will al­low peo­ple to en­joy the unique tra­di­tional lo­cal cul­ture,” said Huang Lixin, Party chief of Wuxi.

Taihu New City, which will be lo­cated in the south part of Wuxi city, has an area of 150 square kilo­me­ters. It will be­come an eco­log­i­cal mod­ern city ca­pa­ble of ac­com­mo­dat­ing one mil­lion peo­ple.

The new city is di­vided into three parts. On the east side will be the Taihu In­ter­na­tional Tech­nol­ogy Park, a clus­ter of high-tech and emerg­ing in­dus­tries and also an in­no­va­tion in­cu­ba­tor.

The west part will be a leisure zone for hol­i­day­mak­ers and also a center for cre­ative in­dus­tries and tourism. The cen­tral part will be the fi­nan­cial hub and serve as a res­i­den­tial area.

One- third of the new city will be green space, in­clud­ing forests, wet­lands and scenic spots, said Zhang Mingchun, pres­i­dent of the Taihu New City De­vel­op­ment Com­pany. There are about 300 streams cross­ing the area, with “wild ducks and egrets float­ing in the wa­ter”. At present, there are more than 200 kinds of birds in the new city.

“When peo­ple walk out of their apart­ments, they can see beau­ti­ful moun­tains and wa­ter, breathe fresh and clean air. This should be the def­i­ni­tion of a liv­able city,” Zhang said.

“I think the new city will not only be­come the most pop­u­lar re­gion in Wuxi but also the center of emerg­ing in­dus­tries.”

The new city project started con­struc­tion in 2007, now half of the new city has been built and many fa­cil­i­ties will start con­struc­tion soon, such as the ex­hi­bi­tion center, art center and fi­nan­cial streets.

While the new city is more about busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, Mashan In­ter­na­tional Tourist Re­sort of­fers more to at­tract visi­tors.

In 1992, the State Coun­cil ap­proved the es­tab­lish­ment of Mashan Taihu Lake Na­tional Tourist Re­sort in Wuxi to pro­mote Bud­dhist cul­ture and lo­cal Wu cul­ture, which are also the two high­lights of the tourist re­sort.

The re­sort has more than 460 kinds of plants and about 56 tourist spots. Air and wa­ter in that re­gion have been tested as high qual­ity by the Re­search Center for Eco-En­vi­ron­men­tal Sciences of Chi­nese Academy of Sciences.

Ling­shan Gi­ant Bud­dha — an 88-me­ter tall statue of Sakya­muni that lo­cated in the re­sort — is a sym­bol of Wuxi. There were also sev­eral fo­rums and sem­i­nars on Bud­dhism, at­tract­ing visi­tors from around the world.

The re­mains of Helv city is also in the re­gion. Helv is the first city rec­og­nized by his­to­ri­ans as the cap­i­tal of Wu king­dom in the Spring and Au­tumn Pe­riod (770-476 BC). The An­cient City of Helv is a her­itage unit qual­i­fied and pre­served by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

The mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment will in­vest 30 bil­lion yuan in three years to im­prove the re­gion’s fa­cil­i­ties. The in­vest­ment is aimed at sharp­en­ing the whole re­gion’s com­pet­i­tive edge while rais­ing its pro­file as a tourist desti­na­tion.

When the re­sort project is to­tally com­pleted, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment hopes to achieve the ca­pac­ity to ac­com­mo­date 10 mil­lion tourists a year, of which more than 200,000 will be over­seas visi­tors, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial tar­gets. The whole in­dus­try’s an­nual in­come is ex­pected to reach some 5 bil­lion yuan.

Ling­shan Moun­tain, a scenic area with beau­ti­ful moun­tains and wa­ter, will be built into a Bud­dhist re­sort. Mashan town will host many top per­for­mances and in­ter­na­tional events, such as ex­hi­bi­tions and car rac­ing. The an­cient town of Wuyun will show­case the his­toric her­itage of Wu cul­ture and also lo­cal folk arts.

Zhang Zainan, vice di­rec­tor of Taihu Lake Na­tional Tourist Re­sort, said that eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment will be the most valu­able re­sources of the 65 sq km re­gion.

“In the fu­ture, Mashan will be an ideal place to spend hol­i­days and ex­pe­ri­ence var­i­ous cul­tures and ac­tiv­i­ties,” Zhang said.

The cul­tural belt has been built along the An­cient Canal that runs through the city, whose route looks like a big Chi­nese knot.

In an­cient times, there was a tra­di­tion of sit­ting on boats and watch­ing per­for­mances on the plat­forms like lo­cal op­eras, along the canal. This kind of en­ter­tain­ment ex­pe­ri­ence will be recre­ated soon.

Along the 10- kilo­me­ter canal is a del­i­cately built trail, where cit­i­zens could walk and en­joy the view of the canal. There are also two 1,000-me­ter his­toric streets along the canal, where an­cient build­ings built in Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) are still well pre­served.

Th­ese build­ings will keep their an­cient ex­te­ri­ors while the in­sides will be ren­o­vated to be­come shops fac­ing the street. In ad­di­tion to that, there are also an­cient tem­ple tow­ers, bridges, stones sculp­tures, which formed beau­ti­ful scenery with the back­drop of the river. Qing­ming Bridge, the stone arch bridge, with a his­tory of more than 400 years, is another land­mark.

At present, de­signs have been fin­ished for an 18-me­ter green­belt along the canal, said Huang Xin, pres­i­dent of Wuxi Mu­nic­i­pal Devel­opm­net Group Co Ltd. The An­cient

The gov­ern­ment has stepped up ef­forts in build­ing the city into a good place to work, live and travel. A ‘charm­ing Wuxi’ for both lo­cal res­i­dents and visi­tors from around the world.” HUANG LIXIN PARTY CHIEF OF WUXI

Canal is also pre­par­ing its ap­pli­ca­tion for recog­ni­tion as a world her­itage.

Zhang Qi­hai, deputy gen­eral man­ager of the com­pany, said that canal travel will be an im­por­tant part of lo­cal tourism, and they plan to de­velop the canal area into a 4A-class scenic spot. Zhang added that the first phase of the cul­tural belt’s con­struc­tion is nearly com­plete. Later, they will in­vite pro­fes­sion­als to put more cre­ative ideas into the con­struc­tion of the city.

Huang Lixin said that as a front- run­ner in mod­ern­iza­tion, Wuxi sees ren­o­va­tion and re­struc­tur­ing as the en­gine for growth. “The gov­ern­ment has stepped up ef­forts in build­ing the city into a good place to work, live and travel. A ‘charm­ing Wuxi’ for both lo­cal res­i­dents and visi­tors from around the world.” Con­tact the writ­ers through cheny­ingqun@chi­nadaily.com. cn.

ZHOU YE / FOR CHINA DAILY

The An­cient Canal runs through the city.

CHEN XIMING / FOR CHINA DAILY

Night falls over Taihu New City.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A flock of birds fly low over the Pearl Dam in Mashan In­ter­na­tional Tourist Re­sort.

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