Located midway along China's eastern coastline, just north of Shanghai, Jiangsu province is known alternately as the "land of rivers and lakes" and "country of fish and rice". Both names allude to the rich, fertile land of the region that is criss-crossed by a network of rivers and canals, and dotted with lakes and reservoirs. In the south, where the Yangzi River reaches the sea, the terrain is flat. To the east and north the landscape is hilly, even mountainous in areas. The Grand Canal, constructed in the 7th century, bisects the province, providing a valuable link between the coast and inland China.
Beautiful mountains and rivers are not the only attractions that lure visitors to Jiangsu. The province, in particular the city of Nanjing, boasts a fascinating history. Crumbling city walls, venerated mausoleum and statues of vehement leaders are poignant reminders of its colorful past. There are also sights of cultural interest scattered liberally throughout Jiangsu - from the ancient ornamental gardens of Suzhou to Wuxi's world-record breaking bronze Buddha.
The local cuisine is another incentive for tourists to visit Jiangsu. 'Huaiyang' in style, it is similar to Shanghainese cuisine and makes liberal use of soy, ginger, sugar and Shaoxing wine. 'Dazha crab' is the specialty of the region, and in Nanjing salt-cured and pressed duck are delicacies.
Today, Jiangsu's main towns of Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuxi and Yangzhou are thriving industrial centers, and although pollution and development contribute to irritations and eyesores, each retains an individual allure. Spring and fall are the best times to visit - not least because of the millions of plane trees that line the streets of each city 'boulevard-style' (in Nanjing alone there are rumored to be 6 million) - though the summer and winter temperatures are not extreme.