Suzhou (Chinese: 苏州; Suzhounese pronunciation: [səu tsøʏ], Putonghua pronunciation: [sú.ʈʂóu]), alternately 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 its 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.
Skyline of Jinji Lake (2016)
Location in Jiangsu
Location in China
|Coordinates: 31°18′N 120°36′E|
|Country||People's Republic of China|
|• Type||Prefecture-level city|
|• Party Secretary||Lan Shaomin|
|• Mayor||Li Yaping|
|• Prefecture-level city||8,488.42 km2 (3,277.40 sq mi)|
|• Land||6,093.92 km2 (2,352.88 sq mi)|
|• Water||2,394.50 km2 (924.52 sq mi)|
|• Urban||2,743 km2 (1,059 sq mi)|
|• Prefecture-level city||10,721,700|
|• Density||1,300/km2 (3,300/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+8 (Beijing Time)|
|ISO 3166 code||CN-JS-05|
|HDI (2015)||0.894 – very high|
|City tree||Camphor laurel|
|Regional dialect||Wu: Suzhou dialect|
|License plate prefix||苏E and 苏U|
"Suzhou" in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Founded in 514 BC, Suzhou has over 2,500 years of history, with an abundant display of relics and sites of historical interest. Around AD 100, during the Eastern Han dynasty, it became one of the ten largest cities in the world mostly due to emigration from Northern China. Since the 10th-century Song dynasty, it has been an important commercial center of China. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Suzhou was a national economic, cultural, and commercial center, as well as the largest non-capital city in the world, until the 1860 Taiping Rebellion. When Li Hongzhang and Charles George Gordon recaptured the city three years later, Shanghai had already taken its predominant place in the nation. Since major economic reforms began in 1978, Suzhou has become one of the fastest growing major cities in the world, with GDP growth rates of about 14% in the past 35 years. With high life expectancy and per capita incomes, Suzhou's Human Development Index ratings is roughly comparable to a moderately developed country, making it one of the most highly developed and prosperous cities in China.
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".
During the Zhou, a settlement known as Gusu after nearby Mount Gusu (simplified Chinese: 姑苏山; traditional Chinese: 姑蘇山; pinyin: Gūsūshān) became the capital of the state of Wu. From this role, it also came to be called Wu as well. In 514 BC, King Helü of Wu established a new capital nearby at Helü City and this grew into the modern city. During the Warring States period, Helü City continued to serve as the local seat of government. From the areas it administered, it became known as Wuxian (lit. "Wu County") and Wujun ("Wu Commandery"). Under the Qin, it was known as Kuaiji after its greatly enlarged commandery, which was named for the reputed resting place of Yu the Great near modern Shaoxing in Zhejiang.
The name Suzhou was first officially used for the city in AD 589 during the Sui dynasty. The sū (蘇 or 苏) in its name is a contraction of the old name Gusu. It refers to the mint perilla (shiso). The zhou 州 originally meant something like a province or county (cf. Guizhou), but often came to be used metonymously for the capital of such a region (cf. Guangzhou, Hangzhou, etc.). Suzhou is the Hanyu Pinyin spelling of the Putonghua pronunciation of the name. Prior to the adoption of pinyin, it was variously romanized as Soo-chow, Suchow, or Su-chow.
Suzhou, the cradle of Wu culture, is one of the oldest towns in the Yangtze Basin. By the Spring and Autumn period of the Zhou, local tribes named the Gou Wu are recorded living in the area which would become the modern city of Suzhou. These tribes formed villages on the edges of the hills above the wetlands surrounding Lake Tai.
Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian records traditional accounts that the Zhou lord Taibo established the state of Wu at nearby Wuxi during the 11th century BC, civilizing the local people and improving their agriculture and mastery of irrigation. The Wu court later moved to Gusu within the area of modern Suzhou. In 514 BC, King Helü of Wu relocated his court nearby and called the settlement Helü City after himself. His minister Wu Zixu was closely involved with its planning and it was this site that grew into present-day Suzhou. The height of his tower on Gusu Hill (Gusutai) passed into Chinese legend. In 496 BC, King Helü was buried at Tiger Hill. In 473 BC, Wu was defeated and annexed by Yue, a kingdom to its southeast; Yue was annexed in turn by Chu in 306 BC. Remnants of the ancient kingdom include pieces of its 2,500-year-old city wall and the gate through it at Pan Gate.
During the Warring States period, Suzhou was the seat of Wu County and Commandery. Following the Qin Empire's conquest of the area in 222 BC, it was made the capital of Kuaiji Commandery, including lands stretching from the south bank of the Yangtze to the unconquered interior of Minyue in southern Zhejiang. Amid the collapse of the Qin, Kuaiji's governor Yin Tong attempted to organize his own rebellion only to be betrayed and executed by Xiang Liang and his nephew Xiang Yu, who launched their own rebellion from the city.
When the Grand Canal was completed, Suzhou found itself strategically located on a major trade route. In the course of the history of China, it has been a metropolis of industry and commerce on the southeastern coast of China. During the Tang dynasty, the great poet Bai Juyi constructed the Shantang Canal (better known as "Shantang Street") to connect the city with Tiger Hill for tourists. In AD 1035, the Suzhou Confucian Temple was founded by famed poet and writer Fan Zhongyan. It became a venue for the imperial civil examinations and then developed into the modern Suzhou High School in the 1910s.
In February 1130, the advancing Jin army from the north ransacked the city. This was followed by the Mongol invasion in 1275. In 1356, Suzhou became the capital of Zhang Shicheng, one of the leaders of the Red Turban Rebellion against the Yuan dynasty and the self-proclaimed King of Wu. In 1367, Zhang's Nanjing-based rival Zhu Yuanzhang took the city after a 10-month siege. Zhu – who was soon to proclaim himself the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty – demolished the royal city in the center of Suzhou's walled city and imposed crushing taxes on the city and prefecture's powerful families. Despite the heavy taxation and the resettlement of some of Suzhou's prominent citizens' to the area of Hongwu's capital at Nanjing, Suzhou was soon prosperous again. During the early Ming, Suzhou Prefecture supervised the Yangtze shoals which later became Shanghai's Chongming Island. For centuries the city, with its surroundings as an economic base, represented an extraordinary source of tax revenue.
When the shipwrecked Korean official Choe Bu had a chance to see much of Eastern China from Zhejiang to Liaoning on his way home in 1488, he described Suzhou in his travel report as exceeding every other city. Many of the area's private gardens were constructed by the gentry of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The iconoclast Taipings captured the city in 1860, however, and its former buildings and gardens were "almost... a heap of ruins" by the time of their recovery by Charles Gordon's Ever-Victorious Army in November 1863. Nonetheless, by 1880, its population was estimated to have recovered to about 500,000, which remained stable for the next few decades. In the late 19th century, the town was particularly known for its wide range of silks and its Chinese-language publishing industry. The town was first opened to direct foreign trade by the Treaty of Shimonoseki ending the First Sino-Japanese War and by the most favored nation clauses of earlier unequal treaties with the Great Powers. The new expatriates opened a European-and-Chinese school in 1900 and the Suzhou railway station, connecting it with Shanghai, opened on July 16, 1906. Just prior to the World War I, there were 7000 silk looms in operation, as well as a cotton mill and a large trade in rice.
As late as the early 20th century, much of the city consisted of islands connected by rivers, creeks, and canals to the surrounding countryside. Prior to their demolition, the city walls ran in a circuit of about 10 miles (16 km) with four large suburbs lying outside. The Japanese invaded in 1937, and many gardens were again devastated by the end of the war. In the early 1950s, restoration was done on the Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lingering Garden.
The urban core of Suzhou is informally called the "Old Town". It is Gusu District. Suzhou Industrial Park is to the east of the old town, and Suzhou High & New Technology Development Zone is to the west. In 2000, the original Wu County was divided into two districts including Xiangcheng and Wuzhong. They now form the northern and southern parts of the city of Suzhou.In 2012, the original Wujiang City became Wujiang District of Suzhou City.
Suzhou is one of the most prosperous cities in China. Its development has a direct correlation with the growth of its satellite cities, including Kunshan, Taicang, Changshu, and Zhangjiagang, which together with the city of Suzhou form the Suzhou prefecture. The Suzhou prefecture is home to many high-tech enterprises.
|Subdivision||Simplified Chinese||Hanyu Pinyin||Population (2010)||Area (km2)||Density (/km2)|
|Gusu District||姑苏区||Gūsū Qū||954,455||372||2,565.73|
|Huqiu District||虎丘区||Hǔqiū Qū||572,313||258||2,218.26|
|Wuzhong District||吴中区||Wúzhōng Qū||1,158,410||672||1,723.82|
|Xiangcheng District||相城区||Xiāngchéng Qū||693,576||416||1,667.25|
|Wujiang District||吴江区||Wújiāng Qū||1,275,090||1,093||1,166.59|
|Satellite cities (County-level cities)|
|Changshu City||常熟市||Chángshú Shì||1,510,103||1,094||1,380.35|
|Taicang City||太仓市||Tàicāng Shì||712,069||620||1,148.49|
|Kunshan City||昆山市||Kūnshān Shì||1,646,318||865||1,903.25|
|Zhangjiagang City||张家港市||Zhāngjiāgǎng Shì||1,248,414||772||1,617.11|
|Not formal administrative subdivisions – Suzhou Industrial Park & Suzhou New District|
Defunct districts – Canglang District, Pingjiang District, & Jinchang District
Suzhou is on the Lake Tai Plain south of the Yangtze River, about 100 km (60 mi) to the west of Shanghai and just over 200 km (120 mi) east of Nanjing.
Suzhou has a four-season humid subtropical climate with hot, humid summers and cool, cloudy, damp winters with occasional snowfall (Köppen climate classification Cfa). Northwesterly winds blowing from Siberia during winter can cause temperatures to fall below freezing at night, while southerly or southwesterly winds during the summer can push temperatures above 35 °C (95 °F). The hottest temperature recorded since 1951 was at 41.0 °C (106 °F) on 7 August 2013, and the lowest at −9.8 °C (14 °F) on 16 January 1958.
|Climate data for Suzhou (1961-1990)|
|Average high °C (°F)||7.7
|Daily mean °C (°F)||3.7
|Average low °C (°F)||0.5
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||39.0
|Average relative humidity (%)||67||75||70||69||69||75||77||68||74||69||65||68||71|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||136.4||118.7||139.5||153.0||173.6||162.0||232.5||241.8||162.0||161.2||150.0||148.8||1,979.5|
Cityscape and environment
Classical Gardens of Suzhou
The Humble Administrator's Garden and Lingering Garden are among the four most famous classical gardens in China. The Canglang Pavilion, Lion Grove Garden, Humble Administrator's Garden and Lingering Garden, respectively representing the garden styles of the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, are called the four most famous gardens in Suzhou. Other gardens inscribed on the World Heritage List include the Couple's Retreat Garden, the Garden of Cultivation, and the Retreat and Reflection Garden.
Canals and historic districts
The Suzhou section of the Jiangnan Canal, Grand Canal (China), includes ten city gates and over 20 stone bridges of traditional design and historic areas that have been well preserved, as well as temples and pavilions. There are a full 24 waterways in Suzhou near the Grand Canal.
Pingjiang Road runs parallel to the Pingjiang River for 1.5 kilometers and is lined with homes and some teahouses. Shantang Street, over twice as long at 3.8 km, is described by the BBC as retaining "the alluring qualities of an old canal-side street: whitewashed buildings are completed by red-tasselled lanterns that swing softly in the breeze, adding to the charm of the river bank".
Boat tours are offered on the waterways of this city that was dubbed the "Venice of the East" by Marco Polo because of its criss-crossing canals and stone bridges. The Grand Canal (from Beijing to Zhejiang province) is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Resorts and natural reserves
Pan Gate is on the southwest corner of the Main Canal or encircling canal of Suzhou. Originally built during the Warring States Period in the state of Wu, historians estimate it to be around 2,500 years old. It is now part of the Pan Gate Scenic Area. It is known for the "three landmarks of Pan Gate". They are the Ruiguang Pagoda, the earliest pagoda in Suzhou built in 247 BC, the Wu Gate Bridge, the entrance to the gate at that time over the water passage and the highest bridge in Suzhou at the time, and the Pan Gate. The Ruigang Pagoda is constructed of brick with wooden platforms and has Buddhist carvings at its base.
Baodai Bridge stretches across the Tantai Lake in the suburbs of Suzhou. To raise money to finance the bridge, the magistrate donated his expensive belt, hence the name. The bridge was first built in 806 A.D. in the Tang Dynasty and has 53 arches with a length of 317 meters. It was made out of stone from Jinshan Mountain and is the longest standing bridge of its kind in China. The bridge was included on the list of national monuments (resolution 5-285) in 2001.
The Tiger Hill is known for its natural environment and historical sites. The hill is so named because it is said to look like a crouching tiger. Another legend states that a white tiger appeared on the hill to guard it following the burial The hill has been a tourist destination for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, as is evident from the poetry and calligraphy carved into rocks on the hill. The Song Dynasty poet, Su Shi said, "It is a lifelong pity if having visited Suzhou you did not visit Tiger Hill."
Yunyan Pagoda (or Huqiu Tower) built in 961 is a Chinese pagoda built on Tiger Hill in Suzhou. It has several other names, including the "Leaning Tower of China" (as referred to by historian O.G. Ingles) and the Yunyan Temple Tower. The tower rises to a height of 47 m (154 ft). It is a seven-story octagonal building built with blue bricks. In more than a thousand years the tower has gradually slanted due to forces of nature. Now the top and bottom of the tower vary by 2.32 meters. The entire structure weighs some 7,000,000 kilograms (15,000,000 lb), supported by internal brick columns. However, the tower leans roughly 3 degrees due to the cracking of two supporting columns.
Beisi Pagoda or North Temple Pagoda is a Chinese pagoda at Bao'en Temple in Suzhou. It rises nine stories in a height of 76 m (249 ft). It is the tallest Chinese pagoda south of the Yangtze river.
Twin Pagodas (苏州双塔) lie in the Dinghui Temple Lane in the southeastern corner of the city proper of Suzhou. They are artistic and natural as they are close at hand. One of them is called Clarity-Dispensing Pagoda and the other Beneficence Pagoda and they are in the same form of building. There are many legends about the one-thousand-year-old pagodas. It is charming that the exquisite and straight Twin Pagoda look like two inserted writing brushes. There was originally a single-storey house with three rooms just like a writing brush holder with the shadows of the two pagodas reclining on its roof at sunset. To the east of the pagoda is a square five-storeyed bell building built in the Ming Dynasty which is exactly like a thick ink stick. So there is a saying that "the Twin Pagodas are as writing brushes while the bell building as ink stick".
The population of Suzhou is predominantly Han Chinese. The official language of broadcast, instruction, etc. is Putonghua, although many speak a local dialect known as Suzhounese, a member of the Wu language family. In addition to American and European expatriates, there is a large Korean community in Suzhou. The Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) estimated that there were 15,000 Koreans in the municipality in 2014. That year 850 Korean companies operated in Suzhou, and the Koreans made up the largest number of students at the Suzhou Singapore International School.
Suzhou's economy is based primarily on its large manufacturing sector—China's second largest—including iron and steel, IT and electronic equipment, and textile products. The city's service sector is notably well-developed, primarily owing to tourism, which brought in a total of RMB 152 billion of revenue in 2013. Suzhou's overall GDP exceeded RMB 1.3 trillion in 2013 (up 9.6 percent from the year previous).
The city is also one of China's foremost destinations for foreign investment, based on its relative proximity to Shanghai and comparatively low operating costs. The municipal government has enacted various measures to encourage FDI in a number of manufacturing (e.g. pharmaceutical, electronic goods, automobile) and service (e.g. banking, logistics, research services) sectors. Included among these measures is a preferential tax policy for limited partnership venture capital enterprises in the Suzhou Industrial Park.
Suzhou Industrial Park
The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) is the largest cooperative project between the Chinese and Singaporean governments. It is beside Jinji Lake, which lies to the east of the Suzhou Old City. On 26 February 1994, Vice Premier Li Lanqing and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew represented China and Singapore respectively in signing the Agreement to jointly develop Suzhou Industrial Park (originally called the Singapore Industrial Park). The project officially commenced on 12 May in the same year. SIP has a jurisdiction area of 288 km2 (111 sq mi), of which, the China-Singapore cooperation area covers 80 km2 (31 sq mi) with a planned residential population of 1.2 million.
SIP is home to the Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District, an area of universities and higher education institutions, including Soochow University and Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Suzhou Industrial Park is also a popular residential district for many foreigners who work and live in Suzhou, as well as 'new Suzhou' residents who migrated to the area in search of work opportunities.
Suzhou Industrial Park Export Processing Zone
The Suzhou Industrial Park Export Processing Zone was approved to be established by the government in April 2000, with a planning area of 2.9 km2 (1.1 sq mi). It is in Suzhou Industrial Park set up by China and Singapore. Inside the Export Processing Zone, all the infrastructures are of high standard.
Suzhou New District
The Suzhou New District was established in 1990. In November 1992, the zone was approved to be the national-level hi-tech industrial zone. By the end of 2007, foreign-invested companies had a registered capital worth of US$13 billion, of which US$6.8 billion was paid in. SND hosts now more than 1,500 foreign companies. Some 40 Fortune 500 companies set up 67 projects in the district.
Suzhou Dongwu currently play in China League Two, the third division of Chinese football. The 13,000 seat Suzhou Industrial Park Sports Arena will be one of the venues for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Suzhou is on the Shanghai-Nanjing corridor which carries three parallel railways. Suzhou railway station, near the city center, is among the busiest passenger stations in China. It is served by the Beijing–Shanghai railway (mostly "conventional" trains to points throughout China) and the Shanghai-Nanjing intercity railway (high-speed D- and G-series trains providing frequent service primarily between Shanghai and Nanjing). It takes only 25 minutes to reach Shanghai railway station on the fastest G-series trains and less than 1 hour to Nanjing.
Other stations on the Beijing–Shanghai railway and the Shanghai–Nanjing intercity railway serve other points in the same corridor within Suzhou Prefecture-level city, such as Kunshan. In and between Suzhou and Kunshan South railway station, Suzhou Industrial Park railway station now also becomes an important station for people visiting and living in the areas.
The northern part of the city, including such county-level cities as Zhangjiagang]], Changshu and Taicang, presently has no rail service. However, plans exist for a cross-Yangtze railway from Nantong to the Shanghai metropolitan area (the Shanghai–Nantong railway), which will run through most of these county-level cities. Construction work is expected to start in 2013 and to take five and a half years.
The Nanjing-Shanghai Expressway connects Suzhou with Shanghai, alternatively, there is the Yangtze Riverine Expressway and the Suzhou-Jiaxing-Hangzhou Expressway. In 2005, the Suzhou Outer Ring was completed, linking the peripheral county-level cities of Taicang, Kunshan, and Changshu. China National Highway 312 also passes through Suzhou.
Suzhou is served by three airports, Sunan Shuofang International Airport (co-owned by Wuxi and Suzhou), Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport ( one hour drive ), Shanghai Pudong International Airport ( two hours drive ).
Port of Suzhou, on the right bank of the Yangtze River, dealt with 428 million tons of cargo and 5.86 million TEU containers in 2012, which made it the busiest inland river port in the world by annual cargo tonnage and container volume.
The Suzhou Rail Transit currently has three lines in operation and five other lines under construction. The masterplan consists of nine independent lines. Line 1 started operation on April 28, 2012, Line 2 started operation on December 28, 2013, and Line 4 started operation in 2017. As of September 2019, Line 3, Line 5, Line 6, Line 8 and Line S1 are under construction at the same time.
Suzhou Tram system has two routes in the Suzhou New District.
Suzhou has public bus routes that run into all parts of the city. Fares are flat rated, usually 1 Yuan for a non-air-conditioned bus and 2 Yuan for an air-conditioned one. The Suzhou BRT, a 25-kilometre (16 mi) bus rapid transit system opened in 2008, operates 5 lines using elevated busways and bus-only lanes throughout the city.
- Opera: Kunqu originates in the Suzhou region, as does the much later Suzhou Opera. Ballad-singing, or Suzhou pingtan, is a local form of storytelling that mixes singing (accompanied by the pipa and sanxian) with portions in spoken dialect.
- Silk: throughout China's Imperial past, Suzhou silk has been associated with high-quality silk products, supplying silks to ancient royal families. By the 13th century, Suzhou was already the center of the profitable silk trade.
- Song brocade: Suzhou's Song brocade, with its flashy colors, exquisite patterns, strong and soft texture, is one of China's three famous brocades, together with Nanjing Yun brocade and Sichuan Shu brocade. Suzhou's brocade production can be traced back to the Five Dynasties. It prospered in the Song Dynasty. After the government moved the capital southward, the country's political and cultural center moved to the Yangtze River area. To cope with the special need of artists, a type of very thin brocade for decorating paintings emerged in Suzhou. These brocades and paintings have been preserved. Whenever people talked about brocade, they mentioned the Song Dynasty, and thus Song brocade got its name and has been well-known ever since.
- Handicrafts: Suzhou embroidery, fans, Chinese musical instruments, scroll mounting, lanterns, mahogany furniture, jade carving, silk tapestry, traditional painting pigments of Jiangenxutang Studio, the New Year's wood-block prints of Taohuawu Studio.
- Calligraphic art
- Cuisine: Yangcheng Lake large crab
- Suzhou Silk Hand Embroidery Art
- Suzhou is the original place of "Jasmine", a song sung by Chinese singers or actresses thousands of times on the occasions of almost every important meetings or celebrations. Jasmine is the symbol of Suzhou as well as Tai Hu Lake.
- Suzhou Gardens: Gardens in Suzhou have an ancient history. The first garden in Suzhou belonged to the emperor of Wu State in Spring and Autumn Period (600 BC). More than 200 gardens existed in Suzhou between the 16th and 18th centuries. Gardens in Suzhou were built according to the style of Chinese Paintings. Every view in a garden can be seen as a piece of Chinese Painting and the whole garden is a huge piece of Chinese Paintings. At present, the Humble Administrator's Garden, built in 16th, is the largest private garden in Suzhou. It belonged to by Wang Xianchen, an imperial censor.
- Suzhou embroidery together with embroidery of Hunan, Sichuan and Guangdong are called as the "Four Famous Embroideries". Suzhou tapestry method is done in fine silks and gold thread. Other art forms found in this area are sculpture, Song brocade, jade and rosewood carving.
- The Suzhou Museum has a rich collection of relics from many eras. The collection includes revolutionary records, stele carving, folk customs, drama and verse, Suzhou embroidery, silk cloth, gardens, coins and Buddhist artifacts.
Universities and colleges
- Southeast University-Monash University Joint Graduate School
- Suzhou Graduate Town (National University of Singapore and Fudan Joint Graduate School, Nanjing University Graduate School, etc.)
- Suzhou Foreign Language School
- Suzhou EtonHouse International School
- Dulwich College Suzhou
- Dulwich International High School Suzhou
- Japanese School of Suzhou
- Kedge Business School
- Suzhou Korean School
- Suzhou Singapore International School
- Skema Business School – Chinese campus of the French business school
- Overseas Chinese Academy of Suzhou (苏州工业园区海归人才子女学校)
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Calculated using data from Suzhou Statistics Bureau. Life Expectancy Index = 0.9672, Education Index = 0.8244, Income Index = 0.896. Refs:
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