Jiangsu is a long, narrow province hugging the coast south of Shandong. Low-lying, flat and wet, it is one of China’s most fertile and long-inhabited areas. Today, much of it is industrial sprawl, but there are a few gems among all the new factory towns; provincial capital Nanjing is one of the country’s great historical cities, while ancient Suzhou is famous throughout China for its gardens and silk production.
Visiting the region, you find yourself in a world of water. The whole area is intensively drained, canalized, irrigated and farmed, and the rivers, canals and lakes which web the plain give it much of its character. The traditional way to travel here was by boat, with the Grand Canal once navigable all the way from Hangzhou in Zhejiang province to Beijing. The province’s other great water highway – the Yangzi River – connects Nanjing with Shanghai, ensuring that trade from both east and west continues to bring wealth to the region.