One of the principal outlets of Tai Lake, Suzhou Creek has a length of 125 km, of which 54 km are within the administrative region of Shanghai and 24 km within the city's highly urbanized parts. The river flows into the Huangpu River at the northern end of the Bund in .
Suzhou Creek has played an important role for being the demarkation line between political spheres of influences throughout Shanghai's history. After the Treaty of Nanjing forced China to open up in 1842 and Shanghai became an international trade port, the river formed the boundary between the British concession and the American settlement until both concessions were merged into the International Settlement in 1863. When the Japanese invaded Shanghai in 1937, the river formed the boundary between the International Settlement and the Japanese concession .
Due to Shanghai's role as trade port, from the 1930s Suzhou Creek was an important shipping route, facilitating the transport of goods into the interior of China. Along the river banks, a multitude of warehouses and factories were built at this time, making the region close to the river a significant industrial area.
In the course of urbanization, local industries withdrew from the city centre, leaving the warehouses and factories abandoned. Up to this point, the river had been heavily polluted by industries as well as domestic waste water, making Suzhou Creek locally known as ''"the smelly river"'', the most polluted river in Shanghai since the 1920s.
Redevelopment and future
Since 1992, the Shanghai Municipal Government has been pursuing a redevelopment of the area. In 1998, authorities launched the Suzhou Creek Rehabilitation Project, a 12-year-program to improve the water quality, migitate flood impact, introduce wastewater and water resource management and push for urban revalitization and a higher living standard in the desolated areas along Suzhou River. In the meantime, Suzhou River is considered clean enough to host annual rowing competitions.
Originally, most old factories and warehouses along Suzhou River were set be demolished in favour of the construction of modern high-rise buildings in Shanghai's fast-developing city centre, aiming at a social and economic regeneration of the Suzhou River area. However, following initiatives of artists in the late 1990s the riverside has been designated as a protected heritage zone and many warehouses have been conserved, now providing quarters for Shanghai's flourishing art scene.
In 2002, new plans for the redevelopment of the riverfront of Suzhou Creek were approved. These plans, based upon proposals by three international firms, call for the construction of entertainment facilities and 1 square kilometre of parks along the downtown section of Suzhou Creek between and its confluence with Huangpu River, aiming to raise the commercial attractiveness of this central part of the river. New structures include shops, bars and a total of 95 greenbelts at the banks of the river, which are supposed to be planted by 2010, the time the Suzhou Creek Rehabilitation Project is completed.
While some areas already leased to investors will have to be reclaimed and old residential and industrial facilities are supposed to be replaced, authorities assert that the protection of historical buildings, especially warehouses, will be respected.
Places along the river
Due to its location in the former International Settlement, a number of landmarks from that period can be found along or close to Suzhou Creek. Following the river westward from its confluence, important or famous places include:
*Huangpu Park and the northern end of the The Bund
*People's Hospital No. 1
*Suzhou Creek Art District
Suzhou Creek is crossed by a number of distinctive bridges, often European in style, the most famous one being Waibaidu Bridge right at its confluence with Huangpu River.
Facilitating north-south traffic in the ever-growing metropolis, a number of new bridges are currently being constructed. Gubei Road bridge, to be opened in late 2006, will be the longest bridge over the waterway. By 2007, there will be thirty bridges spanning Suzhou Creek.
In the media
The Suzhou Creek plays a pivotal role in Lou Ye's film ''"Suzhou River"'', which shows the lives of ordinary people living in the old quarters of the northern bank of the river at the turn of the millennium, rather than showcasing modern Shanghai.