According to legend, Wuxi was founded around 3000 years ago by the princes Taibo and Zhongyong, from the Zhou region in northern China. The two princes supposedly settled in Wuxi (though the location is disputed) and named the area Gowu. They settled agriculture and founded the area's first waterways ensuring that their settlement flourished. The first brother Taibo died, and his brother Zhongyong built a shrine to honor him. Although the Taibo Tomb has been damaged over the years, there is still a structure on the site: the present structure is mostly Qing Dynasty.

The people from the area became known as Wu and became an extremely powerful state during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period . The definitive work on military strategies and tactics ''The Art of War'' was written during the 6th century BC by Sun Tzu: some of Sun Tzu's descendants still live near the Plum Garden.

Between various wars and skirmishes Wuxi and the surrounding areas were lost to various other tribes & kingdoms until the Han Dynasty when tin was discovered in nearby hills and Gaozu set the area up as a county. At this time, the settlement's name was changed to Youxi (with tin) which it was called for several hundred years until the metal ran out, and the name was changed to Wuxi (without tin).

The city grew steadily, playing a role in flourishing agriculture and silk industries especially after the construction of the great canal, when rice and fish became major exports of the region. Cotton mills, flour mills and silkworm cocoon plants were set up during this time and the expansion continued right up until the establishment of the PRC in 1949. From 1978 onwards, Wuxi farmers have set up a ''township enterprise'' in the area, and foreign investment has flowed into the city to ensure its place as one of the Top 15 key economic centers in China.

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