Living in Wuxi

Living in Wuxi

Wuxi is an ancient and picturesque city in southern China. It is known as "The Pearl of Lake Tai" because it is situated along the Grand Canal at that waterway’s junction with local rivers near the north-eastern corner of Lake Tai. The city is the principal route focus of the dense network of canals and waterways that provides the basic transport system of southern Jiangsu.

Wuxi has traditionally been a centre of the textile industry, being engaged in both cotton textiles and silk reeling. Textile mills were established there as long ago as 1894 and silk filatures (establishments for reeling silk) in 1904. This development was largely the work of Shanghai industrialists, many of whom were originally from Wuxi merchant families. The two cities have had unusually close links, and Wuxi was known colloquially before World War II as “Little Shanghai.” The cotton yarn produced was woven not only in the city itself but also in such nearby canal cities as Changzhou (northwest) and Suzhou (southeast), whereas the silk reeled in the city was mostly woven into cloth in Suzhou and (more recently) in Shanghai. Present-day Wuxi is the one of the greatest silk-reeling centres in China. Cotton textile production is also important and is the city’s largest single industry.

Other long-established industries include flour milling, rice polishing, and oil extraction. Industrial development has accelerated since the 1950s. The textile and food-processing industries have been modernized and expanded, and the city has become a centre for the engineering industry, particularly for the manufacture of machine tools and diesel engines. Wuxi also manufactures electrical equipment and cables and boiler-plant and textile machinery of various types; more recently, manufacture of chemicals and pharmaceuticals has become important.

Since 1949 the city’s importance as a national commercial centre has declined, although its role as a distribution and collection hub for the Lake Tai area has continued. An expressway between Shanghai and Nanjing passes through the city area, with two branch roads in the province stretching from the city north to Jiangyin and southwest to Yixing. The local airport provides flight service to several major cities in the country.

Tourism has become increasingly important. Wuxi’s surroundings include many well-known scenic spots that have been carefully preserved, together with city parks and historic sites, and the national government has designated it as one of China’s historical and cultural cities. Industrial development has been closely restricted near the lake, the major scenic attraction, although an industrial park focused on science and technology was established there in 2006. Jiangnan University (founded 1902; reconstituted 2001) is the best-known institution of higher learning in the city.

Wuxi dwellers will experience seasonal extremes in temperatures, including a monsoon season.

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