located along the east coast of the People’s Republic of China, it takes its name from jiang, short for the city of Jiangning (now Nanjing) and su, for the city of Suzhou.  Jiangsu borders Shandong in the north, Anhui to the west and Zhejiang and Shanghai to the south.  It has a coastline of over one thousand kilometres along the Yellow Sea and the Yangtze River passes through its southern parts.


This area was historically the home of the ancient ethic people the Huai Yi, and far removed from Chinese civilisation during the earliest Chinese dynasties. During the Zhou Dynasty, more contact with the Chinese was made and eventually the state of Wu was established here, centred at Gusu (now Suzhou).  Wu became a great power near the end of the Spring and Autumn Period and in 484 BC King Helu of Wu defeated the state of Qi, a major power in modern day Shandong, and fought for the role of overlord over all of China.  The state of Wu was taken up in 473 BC by the state of Yue, which in turn fell to the state of Chu in 333 BC.  Eventually the state of Qin overpowered them all and established China as a unified nation in 221 BC.

During China’s first golden age during the Han Dynasty, Jiangsu was something of a backwater, far from the hustle and bustle of the North China Plain.  It was at that time administered under two provinces, Xuzhou Province in the north and Yangzhou Province in the south. Although The Kingdom of Wu developed from south Jinagsu, Jiangsu did not play another important role in Chinese history until the beginning of the fourth century when northern nomads invaded during the Western Jin Dynasty. As these nomads established kingdoms across the north, Han Chinese aristocracy fled to the south and set up a refugee Eastern Jin Dynasty in 317, in Jiankang (today’s Nanjing).  During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, Nanjing was the base of four more ethnic Han Chinese dynasties fighting off the northern barbarians.   North Jiangsu was sort of a middle ground between north and south; it was part of the south to start with, but as the north took more and more control, it became part of the northern dynasties.

Unity was re-established in 581 and China experienced another golden age in the Han Dynasty.  Once again, Jiangsu was left out of the limelight, but a little later, during the Song Dynasty which saw the growth of a wealthy merchant class and an emergent market economy in China, south Jiangsu became a veritable trade centre and since then has been synonymous with luxury and opulence.  South Jiangsu remains one of the richest parts of China and Shanghai, probably the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan of all Chinese cities, is a direct extension of south Jiangsu culture.

The Jurchen Jin Dynasty gained control of North China in 1127 and the Mongols seized power in the thirteenth century.  The Mongols were defeated by the Ming Dynasty who initially made Nanjing their capital.  After a coup by Zhu Di (later Yongle Emperor) the capital was moved to Beijing, much farther north.  The two cities’ names reflect this part of history:  Nanjing means southern capital and Beijing means northern capital. 

South Jiangsu continued to be an important centre of trade and some historians think that industrialisation and capitalism were beginning to emerge from the area’s flourishing textiles industry, but those trends were quashed long before they took off in the West.

While the capital was moved up north, Jiangsu and neighbouring Anhui kept their special statuses as territories called Nanzhili which were governed directly by the central government.  The Qin Dynasty changed this by establishing Nanzhli as Jiangnan province; Jiangsu and Anhui were split apart as two separate provinces and Jiangsu was given the borders it more of less retains to this day.

When Western influences began to be felt in the 1840s, the rich merchant south Jiangsu was very much exposed to new trends and ideas.  Shanghai, once a fairly nondescript little town, quickly became a huge metropolis of trade and banking and eventually was made into an independent municipality.

South Jiangsu was greatly involved in the massive and deadly Taiping Rebellion of 1851 – 1864  which attempted to establish a Christian theocracy in China.  The rebellion began far tot he south in Guangdng, swet through much of South China, and by 1853 had established Nanjing as its capital, which was renamed Tianjing, or Heavenly Capital.

China was torn apart by warlords soon after The Republic of China was established in 1912.  Jiangsu changed hands several times, but in April 1927 Chiang Kai-Shek established his government at Nanjing and was able to bring almost all of China under his control. The second Sino-Japanese War, however, broke out full-scale in 1937 and on December 13th of that year, Nanjing fell.  The occupying Japanese committed so many atrocities in the next three months that this period is known as the Nanjing Massacre.  Nanjing was the seat of the collaborationist government of East China, under Wang Jingwei, and Jiangsu remained under Japanese occupation until the end of the war in 1945.

Nanjing was once again the capital of the Republic of China after the war, though now another way broke out between the Kuomintang government and the Communist forces further north.  The decisive Huaihai Campaign was fought in northern Jiangsu, resulting in Communist victory.  The communists took Nanjing while the Kuomintang fled to the south, eventually ending up in Taipei from which the Republic of China still administers Taiwan and its neighbouring islands while continuing to claim Nanjing as its rightful capital.

The Communists made Beijing their capital and Nanjing was demoted to the provincial capital of Jiangsu. Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms at first left out Jiangsu and other areas, but from the 1990s on, the reforms have been more evening applied throughout the rest of China.  Two southern cities close to Shanghai Municipality, Suzhou andWuxi, have become very prosperous and rank among the top 10 cities in China  (outstripping Nanjing) for gross domestic product. 


Jiangsu is very flat and low, covered by plains for 68 percent of its total surface and by water for another 18 percent.  Large lakes include Lake Taihu, Lake Hongze, Lake Gaoyou, Lke Luoma and Lake Yangcheng.  Most of the province is less than 50 meters above sea level.  Laced with a well-developed irrigation system earned Jaingsu the nickname of Lang of Water, and the southern city of Suzhou has so many canals that it has been dubbed the Venice of the East.  The Yellow Sea borders the province, and the Grand Canal of China cuts through Jiangsu from north to south, running right through the east-west river systems.  China’s longest river, the Yangtze River, runs through the south of the province and reaches the East China Sea.  Mount Yuntai is Jiangsu’s highest point, with an altitude of 625 meters. 

The Huai He River used to cut through north Jiangsu to reach the Yellow Sea, but from 1194 AD the Yellow River further to the north changed its course several times, running into the Huai He in north Jiangsu instead of following its usual northward path to Bohai Bay.  The resulting silting was so heavy that after the last ‘collision’ in 1855, the Huai He was no longer able to make its usual way to the sea.  It flooded and pooled up, creating and enlarging Lake Hongze and Lake Gaoyou and began to flow south through the Grand Canal into the Yangtze.  The old path of the Huai He is now a series of irrigation channels, including one that channels a small amount of the water m the Huai He along its old path into the sea.

Jiangsu Province has several different climate zones, warm and temperate to subtropical and humid.  There are clear-cut seasons, with an average temperature of between –2 to 4 degrees Celsius in January and 26 to 30 degrees Celsius in July.  Spring and summer are rainy seasons, while typhoons can occur in late summer and early autumn. Average annual rainfall is 800 to 1200 mm.


Jiangsu is very wealthy, ranking second among China’s provinces for the highest total GDP.  Its GDP per capita in 2002 was 14,500 yuan, but there is a huge disparity between north and south.  Southern cities like Suzhou and Wuxi have a GDP per capita of about twice the provincial average.  In 2004, Jiangsu’s nominal GDP was 1.54 trillion yuan (191.42 billion), making it the tird largest GDP of all of China’s provinces.  Its per capital GDP was 16,796 yuan (2,029 USD).

Historically Jiangsu has been oriented towards light industries like textiles and food, but since 1949 it has developed heavy industries including the chemical industry and construction materials.  It also manufactures electronics, automobiles, chemicals and machinery.  The economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, although applied in Jiangsu relatively late, have enormously helped southern cities, especially Suzhou and Wuxi which are economically stronger than the provincial capital of Nanjing.  In the eastern outskirts of Suzhou, Singapore has built the Suzhou Industrial Park, the only industrial park in China that is entirely the investment of a single foreign country and serves as a shining symbol of Chinese-Singapore cooperation.

Jiangsu salt mines in Huaiyin have more than 0,4 trillion tonnes of deposits, making it one of the richest in China.  The province also has coal, petroleum and natural gas deposits, but its non-metal mineral deposits are more important.  Besides salt, Jiangsu has significant deposits of halite (rock salt), sulphur, phosphorus and marble.

Jiangsu’s extensive irrigation system supports its agriculture, notably rice, wheat, maize and sorghum. Cash crops include cotton, soybeans, peanuts, rape, sesame, ambary hemp and tea.   Peppermint, spearmint, bamboo, medicinal herbs, apples, pears, peaches, loquats and ginkgo are also produced.  Silkworms also contribute to the economy, with a major base of silk production located in the Lake Taiju region.  Jiangsu is also an important producer of aquatic products and freshwater fish.


The population of Jiangsu was 74,058 million in 2003, with the rural population outnumbering the urban population by nearly 5,000 million.   The majority of people are Han Chinese (99.64%) but minorities include the Hui and the Manchus.


Before the 17th century when the province of Jiangsu was formed, the northern and southern parts of the province were less in contact than now.  South Jiangsu usually means the three prosperous cities of Suzhou,Wuxi and Changzhou, whose culture is more southern and is often referred to as the Wu.  The other parts of the province share what is known as ‘Jainghuai Culture’, which means the culture from between the Yangtse River and the Huai He River, although not all parts of the province really fit in that geographical area. Nanjing and Zhenjiang are really neither north or south but because they are south of the River, they are culturally part of the Jianghuai Region.  Since 1998, the government has been using new classifications to group the cities. All cities to the south of the Yangtse  River are South Jiangsu; the cities of Yanzhou, Nantong and Taizhou are Middle Jaingsu, and the rest is North Jiangsu.  Although somewhat confusing and complex, only the very north cities of Xuzhou and Lianyugang can be thoguht of as culturally north Chinese.  The rest of the province is culturally south with the three South Jiangsu cities purely southern while other cities are more of a mix but dominated by the south.

Mandarin and Wu, two main subdivisions of the Chinese language, are spoken in different parts of Jiangsu. These subdivisions are not mutually intelligible and the dividing line where they are spoken is well defined.

Many art forms and cultural traditions originate in Jiangsu.  One of the most renowned and prestigious forms of Chinese opera, called Kunqu, originated in Kunshan. Pingtan, a type of storytelling accompanied by music, is also very popular and is subdivided according to place of origin.  Xiju, another form of traditional Chinese opera is popular in Wuxi, while Huaiju is popular further north. 

Jiangsu cuisine is one of the eight great traditions of Chinese cuisine.

Suzhou is famous for its silk, embroidery, jasmine tea, stone bridges, pagodas and classical gardens, while nearby Yixing is famous for its teaware and Yangzhou is prized for its lacquerware and jadeware.  Nanjing’s yunjin is a famous kind of woven silk, and Wuxi’s peaches are as cherished in China as Georgia’s are in the United States.

Because Jiangsu has been so famed for its wealth and luxury, poets have long used Jiangsu place names in their works to give it a dreamy quality.  There is a saying, in fact, that ‘Above there is heaven; below there is Suzhou and Hangzhou’, which still makes local hearts swell with pride.

Tourist Attractions

Nanjing was the capital of several Chinese dynasties and has numerous historic sites including the Purple Mountain, the Purple Mountain Observatory, the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Ming Dynasty city wall and gates, Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum (the tomb of the first Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang), Lake Xuanwu, Jiming Temple, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial, Nanjing Confucius Temple, Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge and the Nanjing Zoo with its circus.  Suzhou is famous for its classical gardens which were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as for Hanshan Temple and Hiqui Hill.  Zhouzhuange, the Venice of the East, attracts tourists to its waterways, bridges and structures that have been preserved for centuries.  Wuxi boasts what is known as the ‘world’s greatest buddha’ and Xuhhou in the north is one of China’s eminent historical cities’.

Must sees include:

Lion Garden in Suzhou
Grand Buddha at LingShan, Wuxi,
Chaotian Palace
Gulin Park
Jiangxin Island
Night markets
Qixia Temple in Qixis Mountains
Swallow Rock in Yanziji
The Tombs of Southern Tang Emperors

Colleges and universities

There are eight colleges and universities in Nanjing and two in Suzhou.

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