Known for its magnificent pottery and clay crafts, Wuxi wears its sense of history and tradition proudly coupled with its industrious city centre
A prosperous metropolis with a population of 6.5 million, Wuxi is a medium-sized city by Chinese standards, but punches above its weight with a plethora of attractions and scenic areas on the shores of the great Taihu Lake. The Grand Canal runs through Wuxi and a stretch of old houses have been restored to their former glory, creating a quaint old town. Nanchang Street runs parallel to the water and has a lively stretch of bars, restaurants and cafes with people spilling into the streets on warm nights.
Not far from here, it’s possible to catch a small ferry to the Wuxi Ancient Kilns Relics Museum. Detailing the history of the city’s former dominant industry, brickworks, the museum is housed on Dayao Street, which means ‘big kiln’. In the past, 300 kilns operated in Wuxi firing bricks from the clay taken from Taihu Lake. The produce helped construct many townhouses and palaces all over the province.
Yuantouzhu (Turtle Head Isle) is close to the city centre and is a charming scenic area that juts into Taihu Lake. Its name is derived from the view of this expanse, which, as it suggests, looks like a turtle. Friendly relations with Japan in the 1980s led to a row of cherry trees being planted here and are best seen in full flourish when they bloom in spring.
Three million tourists a year are drawn to the Lingshan Buddha, which weighs 720 tons and is made from 1560 sheets of bronze. Built in the 1990s, the 88 metre-tall statue captivates the crowds, and hugging the Buddha’s huge foot is considered to bring good luck.
A 40-mile drive west from the city is the Longchishan Bike Park in Yixing, also famed for its purple clay teapots. Visitors can hire a bike to ride around the eight-mile-long sealed track that paves the way through some fantastic mountain scenery. When you’re ready to stop off for a rest, there are plenty of teahouses along the way to stop and recover. You can also marvel at how such a wonderful slice of nature could be situated so close to such a busy city.
Local specialities:Buy a Da A Fu – these hand-painted figurines depicting chubby-cheeked kids are considered tokens of luck
Street snacks: Try some Wuxi-style steamed buns filled with pork or crab
Travel: Fast trains reach Wuxi from Nanjing in 1-11/2 hours and from Shanghai in 45 minutes, while a trip to Wuxi by road from both cities takes around two hours