Portland’s sister city: Suzhou, People’s Republic of China

Historic gardens and towering skyscrapers fit together in the Jiangsu province’s most populous city.

Suzhou's Gate to the East building sits on the edge of a blue lake, surrounded by city skyscrapers.

Suzhou’s second-tallest building, the “Gate to the East,” symbolizes modern China’s continuing importance on the world’s stage.

For evidence of the civic collaboration between Portland and Suzhou (pronounced “soo-jo”), look no further than the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Before it opened in 2000, more than 70 artisans, craftspeople, and landscape designers from our sister city lived here for nine months, helping build the urban oasis with materials shipped from China — including 500 tons of stone.

Their heartfelt gesture mirrors the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, a collection of nine sites protected on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Let’s see what else this destination has in store.

Visitors to Suzhou's Lion Grove Garden rest in the shade of a bridge over greenish water where koi fish swim.

Suzhou’s Lion Grove Garden reminds us a lot of Lan Su Chinese Garden.

Photo by Jakub Hałun via Wikimedia Commons

Key facts

Suzhou was established in 514 BC — that’s over 2,500 years ago — as the center of the state of Wu. Surviving several Chinese dynasties, the city developed into a contemporary powerhouse with a bustling economy that’s grown beyond its traditional textile industries. It once held the mantle as the world’s largest non-capital city before it was overtaken by neighboring Shanghai; today’s population is 8,350,625.

A bridge on Suzhou's Shantang Street arches over a canal lined by houses and restaurants, illuminated in the night by glowing orange lanterns.

Suzhou’s Shantang Street comes to life at night, setting the scene for a beautiful waterside meal.

Photo by Vind

Main attractions

Approx. 80% of wedding dresses around the globe are made in Suzhou, and you can explore this rich embroidery history at the Suzhou Silk Museum or Suzhou No. 1 Silk Mill.

Suzhou’s position on the Grand Canal and its network of crisscrossing channels — best enjoyed in places like Shantang Street and Tongli Water Town — has earned it the nickname “Venice of the East.” Ingredients sourced from Lake Tai and the East China Sea heavily influence the local cuisine, where sweet-and-sour squirrel mandarin fish is a well-known dish. Biluochun tea is also grown nearby.

Other important cultural sites include Tiger Hill and its leaning Cloud Rock Pagoda, as well as Hanshan Temple.

Other sister cities

Continue your travels to visit Portland’s international family with our sister city hub.

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