Wuxi Ecological Tourism Prospers, Historical Relics Refresh

The Wuxi Section of the Grand Canal, winding 40.8 kilometers, used to be the lifeblood of Wuxi economy and a colored ribbon with an accumulation of cultures spanning thousands of years,which remains etched on the memory of natives of Wuxi from generation to generation. Having experienced the vicissitudes, nowadays the Grand Canal is gradually turning a new page of new era in history. Indeed, Wuxi has always emphasized and explored value of the tangible and intangible cultural heritages of the Grand Canal, committed to inheritance and protection in sync with development and utilization, to revitalize the ancient canal in the modern metropolis.

In recent years, Wuxi persists in prioritizing protection under the guidance of ecology and adopting thorough and strict measures to deal with pollution, and therefore the water quality of the Canal gradually becomes clean and clear again. The comprehensive improvement project of the ancient Canal belt around the city includes renovations to 9 bridges across the river, addition of 8 waterfront platforms, 2 marinas and a 500-meter path for pedestrians, and progress in greening whose total area in the city alone now is over 100,000 square meters.  

These days, after restoration and improvement, northbound or southbound tourists travel in Lanes on Water by boat, and the thousandyearold Nanchang Street has become a famous commercial street boasting many old alleys, old bridges, old kilns, old temples, old memorial archways and old dwellings. With a reputation as “Incomparable Places along the Ancient Canal”, the busy and prosperous banks have become a golden tourist attraction in Wuxi. According to the statistics, Liangxi District, which enjoys the most enchanting scenery of 6.6kilometer canal from Huangbudun to Qingming Bridge, received 20 million visits from home and abroad last year, with increases of 18% and 13% respectively in the number of tourists and tourism revenues.

The flowing Grand Canal not only contains running water, but more importantly continues the cultural lifeblood which stretches from the ancient time.

Alongside the Canal, cultural landmarks sprout and manifest the canal culture soft power characteristic of Wuxi. One is the arts living room “Canal Waterfront”, which used to be “Kaiyuan Machine Factory” set up by Rong Zongjing and Rong Desheng, the crimson wall bricks revealing the history while a modern building, i.e. an art gallery, stretching out from the old factory. The old and the new buildings add charm to each other, which enables the land to be full of vitality. Lots of upgraded cultural and creative parks including BCM (Bei Cang Men), First Longing and N1955 are integrated with canal culture and fashion elements, as well as constantly improve designing and marketing of cultural and creative products, which have increasingly engrossed the young.

The Grand Canal also gives birth to and accumulates substantial invaluable intangible cultural heritages, such as Wu Ballads, Xi Opera, Taoist Music, Clay Figurines, Huishan Temple Fairs, which, thanks to the canal business and cultural exchanges, took form, developed further, and now still are part of people’s life. Nanshuixian Temple (Shuixian means Water God) has turned into a pavilion for enjoying Taoist Music; Huishan Temple Fair has been restored as it was since the Ming Dynasty; Heping Shuchang (Peaceful Venue) has provided a stage for concentrated performances of Pingtan and Xi Opera; Ancient Huishan Town has introduced several traditional culture items, e.g. Clay Figurines, Xi Embroidery, Bamboo Carving, and some timehonored brands, for instance “Sanyang Southern and Northern Specialties”, “Lu Gaojian” (famous for meat), “Wangxingji” (serving refreshments) to recreate the sights of past prosperous streets.