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Zhouzhuang Water Town


 

Rarely existed in the modern times of China, Zhouzhuang(周庄, literally translated to be the village of zhou family) is an ancient water town like a surrealistic place with classical buildings and traditional folk customs. Situated in Kunshan, a quite famous economic county-level city in the world featuring the Taiwanese’s companies, Suzhou, Zhouzhuang’s history could be traced back to 1086, when it just was a small village in the southeast Suzhou in the south area of Yangtze River. The architectural styles and the town layout constituted of deep cartilages and courtyards, stone bridges, traditional Chinese roofs and elegant mansions surrounded by the vast water give people a peaceful and reclusive feeling, and both remain the original look. With the beautiful sceneries, pristine customs and peculiar human landscapes, Zhouzhuang Ancient Town is a place of purity and tranquility. Walking on the old stone paths, you will find spiritual comfort and taste the precious quietness which is far away from the hustle and bustle. Today, as one of the tentative site of world heritage, Zhouzhuang boasts the No.1 Water Town of China.

 
The Water Town of Zhouzhuang   The Ancient Building of Zhouzhuang



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The History and Culture of Zhouzhuang Old Town

Rivers crisscross in the town of Zhouzhuang, where buildings and streets are constructed along the rivers. Over 60% of the buildings across the town were built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In the tiny 0.47-sq.kilometer ancient town, there are close to one hundred classical houses and over 60 brick carving gate towers. The most representative building is Shen's House, which is a courtyard house with the Qing Dynasty styles. The overall structure of the house is in neat formation, with different styles in various parts. While the most striking feature of Zhang’s House is the small river streaming through the courtyard, where there’s a pond covering over three square meters for unloading ships.

There are a total of 14 ancient bridges built in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties over the rivers in the town. The most famous scenic spots include: Fu’an Bridge, which is the only existing three dimensional structure integrating a bridge and a tower in the south of the Yangtze River; the Twin Bridge, which is a uniquely structured “two-in-one” bridge; and religious sites like Chengxu Taoist Temple and Quanfu Teaching Temple etc.

One of the most well-known people of Zhouzhuang was Shen Wansan, the richest man in the south of the Yangtze River during the early years of the Ming Dynasty. He conducted trade by capitalizing on the convenient waterway transportation in Zhouzhuang. The place thus became a flourishing town in the south of the Yangtze River at that time as well as a distributing centre of grain, silk, porcelain wares and handicrafts.

Special local snacks of Zhouzhuang include Wansan cake, pickled cucumber, mini-shrimp, three-flavor meatballs, perch in water shield soup etc. The dishes with the strongest local flavor are pig's shank and feet, which are originated from Shen Wansan’s family. Locally called “Wansan Pig Shank” and “Wansan Pig Feet”, they were indispensable dishes the Shen’s prepared to entertain distinguished guests.

Zhouzhuang has been included in the UNESCO Tentative List for World Cultural Heritage Sites. In addition, it’s been awarded a lot of distinctions like Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation, American Government Award and the title of “the world’s most charming water town” etc.


The painting-like night view of Zhouzhuang Water Town with such a dreamlike moonlight


Twin Bridges

Like other watery towns, Zhouzhuang Village has lots of bridges. The Twin Bridges, which comprise of Shide Bridge and Yongan Bridge, are the most famous and are considered the symbol of Zhouzhuang. Built in the Wanli era (1573-1619) of the Ming Dynasty, the two bridges had witnessed the changing of this small town. Shide Bridge is east-west and has a round arch, while Yongan Bridge is north-south and has a square arch. Crossing the two crisscross rivers (Yinzi Creek and Nabeishi River) and connecting at the middle, the Twin Bridges look like an old-style Chinese key.

Shen House

Shen House, the former residence of the prestigious rich man Shen Wansan in Ming Dynasty, is one of the most important places of Zhouzhuang Village. Shen Wansan became extremely rich in Ming Dynasty, he was a legend of this small town, and was also the pride of Zhouzhuang. The whole architectural complex is of the Qing's style and occupies an area of more than 2,000 square meters (half an acre). Over 100 rooms are divided into three sections and each one is connected by arcades and aisles.



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