In a land area of 8,488 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers Suzhou city proper. Suzhou in Jiangsu province is 1,035 kilometers southeast of Beijing.
Suzhou has a population of 6.29 million, with about one-third living in urban area, as of the end of 2008.
Mandarin Chinese and Suzhou dialect, a dialect of Wu, one of the subdivisions of Chinese spoken language.
Suzhou is one of the smallest dioceses by area in China. It belongs to in the Ecclesiastical province of Nanjing. Suzhou, formerly spelled Soochow, had been a deanery of Shanghai diocese but became a diocese on June 9, 1949, the year communists took control of China.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), many historical churches in Suzhou suffered serious damages. Church activities gradually revived after 1980.
The first bishop of Suzhou was Shanghai-born Cardinal Ignatius Gong (Kung) Pinmei, who was appointed in 1949, a year before he was named to head Shanghai diocese. Cardinal Kung was imprisoned in 1955 and spent 30 years in solitary confinement before he was paroled in 1985. In 1987, he was allowed to leave for medical treatment in the United States and stayed there until he died in 2000. He was named a cardinal in 1991.
Bishop Shen Chuming served as Suzhou's second bishop, from 1956 to 1968, and Bishop Ma became the diocese's third bishop in 1981.
Suzhou is conveniently located on the Jinghu Railway linking Shanghai and Nanjing, the provincial capital, to both of which there is hourly railway service. Suzhou Railway Station is among the busiest passenger stations in China, having 139 trains stopping daily.
There are several expressways and highways for car traffic.
Air transportation from Suzhou continues to be at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport in Shanghai.
By water, Suzhou is connected with Zhangjiagang, Luzhi, Liujia and Changshou.
Situated at the temperate zone and with subtropical oceanic monsoon climate, Suzhou enjoys four distinct seasons, a mild temperature and abundant rainfall.
With a network of rivers and canals as well as a fertile land, the city is rich in a variety of agricultural products. Major crops vary from rice to wheat, rape, cotton, mulberry, and fruit. Its specialties include Biluochun Tea, Dao Fish from Yangtze River, Silver Fish from Taihu Lake and Hairy Crabs from Yangchenhu Lake. As a well-known "Land of Fish and Rice" as well as a "Silk Capital", Suzhou enjoys a fame of being "Paradise on Earth". Except this, Suzhou has a growing steal and IT industry. There are now 68,000 private businesses and 21,000 are new ones. The GDP per capita was 106,412 yuan (US$15,322) in 2008, ranked 2nd among 659 Chinese cities.
The city is located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province, bordering Shanghai on the east, Zhejiang Province on the south, the Taihu Lake in the west and the Yangtze River in the north. Suzhou city is situated in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The city spreads on a low terrain, with the plain covering 55% of the total area.
Suzhou owns the largest number of institutions of higher education with 105 universities and colleges and an annual student enrolment of close to a million in 2007.
Up to the end of 2003, there were, in the whole municipality, 18 art performing troupes, 107 cultural centers, 11 public libraries, 2 publishing houses, 14 newspapers, 26 magazines, 6 TV stations, 45 cinemas and 19,000 digital TV consumers.
Suzhou is renowned for its scenery. It has beautiful stone bridges, pagodas and meticulously designed gardens and is called the "Venice of the East" by some. Its classical gardens are among the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city has been a major center for China's silk industry and continues to hold that prominent position today.
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