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SIP to Build Cultural Oasis

In comparison with the thousands of years' history and cultural traditions of the old city proper of Suzhou, the 13-year-old SIP, despite its vigorous development in hi-tech economy and industries, is but a cultural desert in the opinion of many people. To change this notion, SIP has been in recent years going all out to build cultural facilities.

The reconstruction of Chongyuan Monastery, the completion of the "bird nest" (Suzhou Science, Cultural and Art Center) and the permanent evaluation base for China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Awards, are part of the efforts of SIP to develop culture along with economy.

Liu Xia, Vice-director of SIP Bureau of Social Undertakings, points out that SIP, instead of being a continuation of history and nature, is a new urban district that has resulted from policy. She said, "The hundreds and thousands of residents in SIP are all new immigrants, which is the cultural feature of SIP. There is also an internationalized culture in SIP, and we must build our cultural undertakings to suit the special characteristics in SIP."

The recently completed Science, Cultural and Art Center and Chongyuan Monastery, which was inaugurated on Nov. 17, are two spots of cultural interest in SIP, the former costing 1.7 billion RMB and occupying 140,000 square meters of land. The Center, which took two and half years to complete, consists of a 1,200-seat grand theater, a dining theater with a seating capacity of 500, a commercial center, and science hall, and art gallery, and its design reflects Architect Paul Andreu's concept of combining "a pearl with a wall and a garden".

The Congyuan Monastery by Yangcheng Lake was first built in the Liang dynasty of the Southern and Northern Dynasties Period with a history of 1,500 years. The reconstructed Buddhist sanctuary covers a land area of over 200 mu, and tops all other temples in China with the 33-meter-high indoor image of Goddess of Mercy.

According to Liu Xia, SIP is considering to build a exhibition hall of Caoxie Hill Culture, the former site of which is located on the southern shore of Yangcheng Lake, Weiting Township, and can be traced to 6,000 years back. It is where King Yu Mei of Wu State was buried and where it has been confirmed to be the earliest area of paddy rice cultivation.

At present, SIP is putting much stress on the transformation of manufacturing industries to service sector, and cultural undertakings are an important part of the service industry, SIP is now playing a leading role among national economic development zones in organizing various cultural activities.

SIP is now increasingly becoming a hot spot of tourist attraction. Reports say that SIP attracts 300 visitors annually.

Nov. 25, 2007

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