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The city of Changshu is located in Jiangsu Province, and part of the jurisdiction of Suzhou. It has a long history beginning in 540 AD, nowadays displaying characteristics of its development into a prosperous modern city, but also those of an older, developing China. Living and working in Changshu gives an expat a perspective on China's past, present and future. The most striking feature of Changshu is Yu Mountain, rising high above the flat Yangzi River plain. Yu Mountain Park is crisscrossed with hiking paths, tea fields, ancient temples such as the Xinfu Temple, an ancient Buddhist Monastery tucked away on the slopes of the mountain. The mountain and park cover a huge area to the west of the city, and features excellent views of the sprawling city skyline below. The city also features a maze of waterways, with two sizeable lakes and small villages just outside the city, perfect for a curious expat.


Changshu is quite different from most cities in China because of the good air quality. This is because the local economy is focused primarily on light manufacturing, garment production, technology and hospitality services; rather than on heavy industry. Changshu means "long harvest" in Mandarin and is known as the "clothing capital of china", for its status as a worldwide leader in garment distribution and trade. This light manufacturing means shopping here is not to be missed. To the south of the city are markets for just about anything. There’s a shoe city, alleyway mazes of clothes markets to get lost in, Technology Street, Small commodities Market, the list goes on. This is an old part of the city, and when wandering around there, the atmosphere will make you want to go back time and again. Well, that and the prices.




The cuisine of Changshu features familiar Western chains, such as Starbucks, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, as well as high end dining, plus a tempting selection of Chinese food. The local delicacy is freshwater crab and crawfish, but all the flavors of China can be tasted here, from the spicy Sichuan hotpot to the sweetness from Shanghai. A multitude of street stands serving shish kebabs, dumplings, as well as some new Chinese food few people outside China are aware of. The food markets stock nearly everything, plus there is a Metro, a foreign goods store, which will always have everything an expat could desire. Expats living here are lucky to have a wide variety of foods to choose from.

Changshu is an ideal location to explore China's most fascinating cities: historic Suzhou (1 hour), Hangzhou (3.5 hours), Nanjing (3 hours), and the megacity of Shanghai, just down the Yangzi by coach bus (2 hours). Changshu's expat community includes American and European businesspeople and a small network of foreign teachers. However, Changshu is a Chinese city. You will not see many foreigners on a walk through town, yet you will find that the local people are very kind and helpful. Changshu would be an ideal city to learn Chinese, which is difficult to do in larger cities that are filled with Westerners. Changshu's size is another factor that benefits the expat community, with a population of 1 million people. Distances are not insurmountable and with a little motivation you can cross the main city center in an hour or so on foot and the city has a useful bus system. Exercise opportunities include hiking, jogging, bicycling, and health clubs. The central pedestrian street features coffee and tea houses, shopping and a lively street scene.



 
 
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March Semester 2014
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