Suzhou, formerly romanized as Soochow, is a major city located in southeastern Jiangsu Province of East China, about 100 km (62 mi) northwest of Shanghai. It is a major economic center and focal point of trade and commerce, and the second largest city in the province after the capital Nanjing. The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the shores of Lake Tai and belongs to the Yangtze River Delta region. Administratively, Suzhou is a prefecture-level city with a population of 4.33 million in its city proper, and a total resident population (as of 2013) of 10.58 million in its administrative area. Its urban population grew at an unprecedented rate of 6.5% between 2000 and 2014, which is the highest among cities with more than 5 million people.
The city's canals, stone bridges, pagodas, and meticulously designed gardens have contributed to its status as one of the top tourist attractions in China. The Classical Gardens of Suzhou were added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997 and 2000. Suzhou is often dubbed the "Venice of the East" or "Venice of China".
Hangzhou, formerly romanized as Hangchow, is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang Province in east China. It sits at the head of Hangzhou Bay, which separates Shanghai and Ningbo. Hangzhou grew to prominence as the southern terminus of the Grand Canal and has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China for much of the last millennium, due in part to its beautiful natural scenery. The city's West Lake is its best-known attraction.
Hangzhou is classified as a sub-provincial city and forms the core of the Hangzhou metropolitan area, the fourth-largest in China.During the 2010 Chinese census, the metropolitan area held 21.102 million people over an area of 34,585 km2 (13,353 sq mi). Hangzhou prefecture had a registered population of 9,018,000 in 2015.
Xi'an, formerly romanized as Sian, and also known as Chang'an before the Ming dynasty, is the capital of Shaanxi Province, People's Republic of China. It is a sub-provincial city located in the center of the Guanzhong Plain in Northwest China. One of the oldest cities in China, Xi'an is the oldest of the Four Great Ancient Capitals, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history, including Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui, and Tang. Xi'an is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Since the 1990s, as part of the economic revival of inland China especially for the central and northwest regions, the city of Xi'an has re-emerged as an important cultural, industrial and educational centre of the central-northwest region, with facilities for research and development, national security and China's space exploration program. Xi'an currently holds sub-provincial status, administering 9 districts and 4 counties. As of 2015 Xi'an has a population of 8,705,600 and the Xi'an-Xianyang metropolitan area has a population of 13,569,700. It is the most populous city in Northwest China, as well as one of the three most populous cities in Western China. According to a July 2012 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, it was recently named as one of the 13 emerging megacities, or megalopolises, in China. The report pinpoints and highlights the demographic and income trends that are shaping these cities' development.
Shanghai is one of the four direct-controlled municipalities of the People's Republic of China. It is the most populous city proper in the world, with a population of more than 24 million as of 2014. It is a global financial centre and transport hub, with the world's busiest container port. Located in the Yangtze River Delta in East China, Shanghai sits on the south edge of the mouth of the Yangtze in the middle portion of the Chinese coast. The municipality borders the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the north, south and west, and is bounded to the east by the East China Sea.
As a major administrative, shipping, and trading town, Shanghai grew in importance in the 19th century due to trade and recognition of its favourable port location and economic potential. The city was one of five treaty ports forced open to foreign trade following the British victory over China in the First Opium War. The subsequent 1842 Treaty of Nanking and 1844 Treaty of Whampoa allowed the establishment of the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession. The city then flourished as a center of commerce between China and other parts of the world (predominantly Western countries), and became the primary financial hub of the Asia-Pacific region in the 1930s. However, with the Communist Party takeover of the mainland in 1949, trade was limited to other socialist countries, and the city's global influence declined. In the 1990s, the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping resulted in an intense re-development of the city, aiding the return of finance and foreign investment to the city.
Shanghai has been described as the "showpiece" of the booming economy of mainland China; renowned for its Lujiazuiskyline, museums and historic buildings, such as those along The Bund, the City God Temple and the Yu Garden.