Lakeside Wuxi highlights its natural charms, rich culture
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 email@example.com. cn.
The Ancient Canal runs through the city.
Night falls over Taihu New City.
A flock of birds fly low over the Pearl Dam in Mashan International Tourist Resort.