Suzhou Shopping Guide: What to Buy and Where to Buy

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Jun. 4, 2021

Shopping at Suzhou is to have a taste of local culture. The rivers and lakes at the south of the Yangtze River bring intelligence to the Suzhou people, which make them produce particularly delicate artcrafts. As early as in Ming and Qing Dynasties, the goods will be sold extraordinary well so long as they have a local character on it.

Best Souvenirs to Buy in Suzhou

Suzhou Musical Instruments

Early in Qing Dynasty Qian Long year, Suzhou musical instrument manufacture was very thriving and the musical instrument manufactured here take the leading position in the whole country. Erhu (two-stringed bowed instrument with a lower register than Jinghu), and bamboo flute developed a new school by its inherent local characteristic and the lasting style. Presently the main musical instrument enterprises are the First Folk Musical Instrument Enterprise, the Second Folk Musical Instrument Enterprise, the Third Folk Musical Instrument Enterprise and the West Musical Instrument Enterprise, which produce more than 100 various instruments including Jinghu, Erhu, dulicimer, Yuan, zheng, flute, Xiao, Sheng, timpano, suona, gong, cymbals, violin, the electric guitar etc.  What’s more, Purified padauk Erhu and timpano were awarded by Jiangsu Province and the Ministry of Light Industry respectively. The successful invention of Pulled Yuan by Suzhou Musical instrument workers made up the lack of bass musical instrument that was replaced by Western musical instrument as cello in the past in china.

Suzhou Padauk Carving

Suzhou padauk carving has a long history. It has formed the Su style--- the style of simple modeling, upright and straight lines, worked excellently and well polished since Ming Dynasty. The wood for padauk carving products are mainly used to decorate meeting rooms, dining rooms, studies. They include beds, tables, sofas and wardrobes. There are other products like boxes, plates, rolling scrolls, etc. Tub-shaped objects, chests and animals, flowers, characters are engraved in the way of shallow relief, relief sculpture and engraving. The padauk first must be dried in order not contract, distort or crack. The main products are whole set furniture as beds, cabinets, desks, sofas etc, What’s more, the padauk are also used to decorate higher class bedrooms, dining rooms, reading rooms and meeting rooms. They includes the small things as boxes, plates, seats, tables, folding screens; the craftworks as canister, cages, covers as well as characters, beasts, and flowers through simple carving, embossing or engraving skills ; and some travel souvenirs: chopsticks, seal boxes, the bookmarks, line boards, teacup saucer and other thousand varieties.

Suzhou Fan

Suzhou Fan is the general term for Suzhou folding fan, sandalwood fan, silk palace fan, paper fan. Suzhou Fan is well known for its long history and refining craft ship. The folding fan got its name for folding is keeping, and is also called scattering fan for scattering it while opening to use. The frame is mainly made of bamboo slats with fan surface made from rice paper. Suzhou fans were produced first at Southern Song (1127-1279) and flourished in Yuan and Ming Dynasties when many masters appeared. Levigation bone jade folding fan attracted many experts to write poems and draw pictures and carve on it when came out, then formed the fine and elegant style. The “Old Fan face”, well-known for its fine, strong, even and endurable quality, is the best among the Suzhou fans. With the paintings and calligraphy, this fan can be appreciated as well as cool people. The area of Peach blossom Shipyard of Changmen has been the centralized place for Suzhou fan ever since.

Suzhou Writing Brush

Writing brush, Anhui ink, rice paper and Duanxi Ink-slab, are regarded as The Four Treasures of the Study in China .The special writing brush was introduced into Suzhou from Wuxin, Zhejiang province in late 18th century. In times, Suzhou Writing brush has formed its own local style that varies in shaped, equal-long, round and robust tips. Suzhou writing bushes are classified into six categories: Goat hair, Mixed hair, Purple hair, Wolf hair, Clock glume and Weasel hair. Furthermore, there are more than 300 sizes of brush, including : big size, middle size, small regular script size, couple brushes and screen brushes etc. The diameter of some brushes is as big as the bowl mouth; others are as small diameter as the embroidery needle. The well-chosen materials and fine craft guarantee excellent performance and quality of the writing bush, which also wins the compliment of the general users.

Suzhou Embroidery

Suzhou embroidery, multi-colored and gorgeous, is regarded as a pearl of Chinese art. The original place of Suzhou embroidery is in the area of Wu County, and now it has already spreaded to Wuxi, Changzhou, Yangzhou, Suqian, Dongtai and other places of Jiangsu. With fertile land and mild climate, Jiangsu is a good place for raising silkworms; as a result this place is rich in silk and wins the name of the town of brocade and embroidery. The superior geographical environment, the gorgeous brocade, and the prismy thread together create favorable condition for Suzhou embroidery. Daily necessities of Suzhou embroidery do not only varied stitches, superb workmanship and elegant colors, but the designs have the meaning of festivities, longevity, fortune which are welcomed by the populace. There is also an upscale variety, called "the picture embroiders" or "Lady's chamber embroidery".

Su Brocade

Su Brocade, well-known for its magnificent color, delicate patterns and softness, Nanjing Yun Brocade, Sichuan Su Brocade are honored as the most famous brocades in China. Suzhou Song Brocade started at Five Dynasties (907-960), and developed prosperously until Song Dynasty, especially after the empire Songgaozong moved the capital to the south of china, which transferred the national political and cultural center to the south of the Yangtze River. In order to satisfy the cultural need, there appeared a kind of extremely thin and fine brocade for the purpose of mounting pictures and calligraphies. There are more than 40 varieties, including "the blue tower brocade", “the purple hundred flowers with dragon brocade,” “the red persimmon with turtle back brocade "and so on. Those old and beautiful pictures are preserved together with the brocade, that is the reason why people today mentioning brocade will naturally think of Song Dynasty, and it is also the reason why it is called Song Brocade.

Best Shopping Streets in Suzhou

Suzhou is not only famous for its water towns and gardens in China, but it’s a wonderful place for visitors to shop. As far as Suzhou souvenirs are concerned, you are highly recommended to purchase Suzhou embroidery, which is listed among the four famous Chinese embroideries along with Xiang embroidery, Shu embroidery and Yue embroidery.

In addition, Suzhou Biluochun Tea, Taohuawu New Year Woodblock Prints and Su fans are also ideal choices during your Suzhou travel, and the popular shopping streets in Suzhou include Guanqian Street, Shiquan Street, Fengqiao Avenue, Huqiu Wedding Veil Street, Pishi Street and Huaihai Street

Guanqian Street

Lined up with many famous stores Guanqian Street has long been famous in the Qing Dynasty (1616 -1911), where you can purchase clothes, headwear, tea, bonsais, glass wares and even musical instruments used in Taoist masses, and it features local cultural atmosphere.

Guanqian Street is the commreical, cultural, religious and tourist center of Suzhou, where the famous stores are highlighted by Dao Xiang Cun Store, Qian Taixiang Store and Huang Tian Yuan Store, and you should visit Xuanmiao Temple on the street if you are a Taoist practioner.

Address: Canglang District, Suzhou
Transport: bus 178, 202, 204, 309, 501, 518, 529, 55, 811, 923, 112, 146, 2, 307, 32, 60, 68, 800 and 900
Nearby attractions: Humble Administrator's Garden, Lion Grove and Xuanmiao Taoist Temple

Shiquan Street

Stretching for 1,800 meters (1,969 yards) long from Anli Bridge of Fengmen Gate in the east to Sanyuanfang of Renmin Road to the west, Shiquan Street is lined with stores of the Ming (1368- 1644) and the Qing (1616 -1911) styles, with walls and dark grey roof tiles matching one another in tranquil elegance. Shiquan Street specializes in selling silk products, embroideries, curios, calligraphic works and paintings, and you’re highly recommended to buy souvenirs and specialties Qin Han Tang Store and Gu Lin Ge Cheongsam Store and Mao Ren Store.

Address: North of Pavilion of Surging Waves, Canglang District, Suzhou
Transport: bus 204, 47, 501, 511, 47, 592, 55, 811, 931, 101, 102, 103, 1, 308, 309 and 5
Nearby attractions: Pavilion of Surging Waves and Master -of -Nets Garden

Fengqiao Avenue

Fengqiao Avenue is a famous cultural and tourist avenue in Suzhou, where stores of the Ming (1368- 1644) and the Qing (1616 -1911) styles stand in great numbers, and it’s a wonderful place for visitors to purchase Suzhou embroideries, the four treasures of the study (i.e. writing brush, ink stick, ink slab, paper), sandalwood fans, rosewood carvings and silk. In addition, a number of curios stores, pearl stores and teapot stores are also available on the street.

Address: Fengqiao Avenue, Huqiu District, Suzhou
Transport: bus 33, 44, 301, 307 and (游) 3
Nearby attractions: Hanshan Temple, Suzhou Amusement Park and Fengqiao Bridge

Shilu Walking Street

Paved with cobblestones, Shilu Walking Street was built in the late Qing (1616 -1911) Dynasty, where a great number of noted stores are distributed, represented by Xin Su Tian Di, Shilu International Commercial City, Asia Mansion, Chengtai Department Store and Five Star Appliance Store.

Address: Guangji Road, Jinchang District, Suzhou
Transport: bus 300, 301, 303, 304, 307, 313, 333, 33, 34, 35, 45, 501, 54, 69, 7, 932, 933 and 949
Nearby attractions: the Lingering Garden and Guangji Park

Pishi Street

Pishi Street is a wonderful place for those who prefer plants and animals, and you can not only purchase various kinds of ornamental plants, but you can also buy different species of pets such as dogs, birds and cats. Pishi Street is also a favorite place for locals to ramble about during the weekend, where the fresh flowers are on sale throughout the year.

Address: Canglang District, Suzhou
Transport: bus 33, 38 and 103
Nearby attractions: White Tower Park, Bao'en Temple and Suzhou Museum

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