China’s water towns, often referred to as “Venices of the East,” are famous for their ancient buildings, bridges, canals, and ways of life that have not changed in centuries. If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of your city life, water towns would be the best choice.
Among all the beautiful water towns south of the Yangtze River, Wuzhen has become especially noted for its history and culture and is the only water town with the Grand Canal running through. Wuzhen displays its profound culture and tradition in its ancient stone bridges floating on mild water, its stone pathways between the mottled walls and its delicate wood carvings. Original ancient town scenery like bridges, waterways and houses are well-preserved.
Wuzhen Water Town is located in the north of Zhejiang Province, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Hangzhou, and 140 kilometers (87 miles) from Shanghai.
One special thing about Wuzhen is that some of the houses beside the river are built on pillars to lift them above the surface of the waterway. Wooden or stone pillars are fixed into the waterway bed, crossbeams are fixed to the pillars, and wooden boards are fixed on to form floors. This architectural feature is called a “water pavilion”. This is part of the original architecture of Wuzhen. The water pavilion is really “on the waterway”. There are often windows on the three sides of this feature, facing the waterway, through which people can have a wonderful view of the watery scenery. In a sense, the water pavilion is the spirit of Wuzhen.
Another extraordinary scene in Wuzhen which I would like to introduce to you is the Bridge in Bridge. It’s created by two ancient bridges; one of which is Tongji Bridge crossing the river from east to west and the other is called Renji Bridge running from south to north and joining the former at one end. Either of two bridges can be seen through the arch of the other, hence the name.
With a history of 1,300 years, there are varieties of museums and traditional workshops in the town. In the east part of Wuzhen (called Dong Zha by Chinese), you can visit ancient bed museum, wine workshop, indigo fabric workshop, woodcarving workshop, shadow play, local opera and so on. In the west part (Xi Zha), you can see soy sauce workshop, iron wok factory, garden, foot-binding culture museum, old post office, theatre, pagoda, children’s museum and many more.
The Foot-binding Culture Museum, about which you might feel curious, offers you a glimpse into a tradition that seems unreal in today’s world. The museum features a collection of 825 pairs of tiny boots and shoes from various regions of China, all beautifully preserved and displayed together with foot-binding tools.
If you visit Wuzhen, I strongly suggest you to stay overnight there. Wuzhen’s night scenery is very beautiful. Flagging streets, obscure streetlamps, winding lanes, creaking boat on rivers and leisurely passers-by, peaceful atmosphere…. you will feel your every step echoing with the history of this ancient and attractive town of Wuzhen.