Sūzhōu No 1 Silk Factory

Museum in Suzhou

This museum and working factory explains how silk is made. You can get up close and personal with silkworms as they chomp their way through mulberry leaves before spinning themselves into precious white cocoons. You can also buy silk products, such as quilts and night clothes, although these can be more expensive than at other places.

Sūzhōu No.1 Silk Factory was established as a state-owned factory in 1926 and nowadays is the country's largest silk factory. The highlight of its museum is the massive, 80-year-old silk-spinning machines that weave together impossibly thin threads. Eight cocoons are needed to make a single usable thread of silk. The process shows how fine silk threads are and why silk was, and still is, so precious a commodity.

The area south of the factory is also interesting for several old redbrick buildings that were part of the Japanese Concession, granted in an 1896 treaty. The most prominent of these is the former Japanese Consulate building, with its grand, columned entranceway.