Suzhou: a visit to China's silk township
2011-04-15China travel Guide
In July 2007, I had the chance to do my first trip to China, and what a trip I had! During one month, I discovered so many things that just made me fall in love with the country and its people: a feeling I can't deny since then. Starting from Zhejiang Province (浙江省), my trip did a long way to the north including the city of Beijing (北京), our last stop-off point before flying back to my country. On our way and after having visited the amazing sprawling city of Shanghai (上海), our bus made a one day stop in the city of Suzhou (苏州). Located in Jiangsu Province (江苏省), Suzhou is one of the most famous tourist destination in China, often holding the surname of "Oriental Venice" as well as water, garden and silk township. Its localization at just a few kilometers away from Shanghai and Hangzhou (杭州) (the three of them form the Scenic Triangle South of the Yangtze River) is the opportunity to have a new vision of China, especially after the big city that has become Shanghai.
My one day visit to Suzhou did not allow me to visit or experience all the top highlights of the city as we had to follow a strict schedule for the good development of our itinerary. Still, the only visit we had the chance to do was one of the most gorgeous one, that is to say the Suzhou Silk Factory! Arriving in early afternoon in the city, our bus headed directly to this China No.1 Silk Factory. Upon our arrival, our English speaking guide started to present us the history of the factory.
Already renowned as a leading silk-producing city since the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), Suzhou is the motherland of the production of this luxury material since early ages. The Silk Factory of Suzhou was founded some 80 years ago and is one of the last in Suzhou using a complete ancient technical process from silkworm raising to cocoon sorting, boiling, silk reeling, rewinding and finally packing. A long and delicate process for one of the most precious material on earth! The discovery I had there was just a marvel! For the first time, I saw how the process of making so soft silk clothes was done, this happening in China gave even more cachet to the visit.
The visit was organized through different paths during which the history of Silk discovery was taught to our group. At the beginning we entered in a large room where lots of silkworms were bred. Positioned in big large workbench drawers, the worms were slowly moving and gathering one to another. The idea that they could be the origin of silk materials was still a bit disappointing indeed. The visit continued to the cocoon sorting machine, cocoon boiling machine and the silk rewinding machines. A bit noisy, the place was just a journey back to history. Indeed, there, some workers dressed in long white overall carefully concentrated on their work were cautiously handling the cocoon and machines. The machines used there were coming back from ancient times and the soft reeling movement where millions of silk threads were winding was an awe-inspiring spectacle. Every worker had a special task. One of them in a corner was sorting out the best cocoons to put them in the boiling vats, first step before reeling and re-reeling cocoons. The precious raw material is definitely the center of attention of every worker here! The sight of this atmosphere was so pure and impressing!
The visit took around 2 hours but I think we could have stayed longer especially during the part where we could see the workwomen spreading out silk weaves. This was a total discovery for me. The silk weaves, as thin as it seemed to be were spreading out like an elastic material. The process was used to create a silk quilt for a rich customer. A precious moment for all of us!
The visit finished, our path leaded to the museum and shop of the Silk Factory. Tracing back all the history of the Silk Factory and the silk handmade materials since ancient times, the museum was a pleasure to discover and really interesting!
The moment for shopping was the one that I was expecting most since the beginning. Indeed, if there is a place where buying the most delicate and 100% Silk products in China, then the Suzhou Silk Factory is best place you will find and the one where you'll definitely not be deceived on the real quality of the product! Flourishing with every kinds of materials from toys to embroideries, mats, quilt, scarfs, bed sheets, tee-shirts, traditional Chinese costumes, dresses, nightgowns, etc... the factory's shop was a delight for any visitors and travelers looking for some unique Chinese presents back home or just souvenirs for themselves!
The afternoon in Suzhou just spent this way as our teacher and guide didn't want us to be tired especially after our morning visit of Shanghai's city center. Leaving Suzhou for our next destination, I could just have a glance at the city's streets and parks from our bus, a pity knowing that Suzhou has so many other scenic sights! Anyways, the city just made me a great impression and I have already planned to a longer Suzhou tour in the future.
--- By Sophie (VisitOurChina)