Zhouzhuang halfway between Shanghai and Suzhou. If you have plans to visit either of these two cities (or both), you should spare one day for Zhouzhuang.
The city of Zhouzhuang is surrounded by lakes on its four sides, but what makes this place so special are its water lanes and its stone bridges.In the region there are other ancient water cities, but Zhouzhuang is considered number one among Chinese tourists.
Most of the buildings in Zhouzhuang belong to the Yuan, Qing and Ming dynasties. Many of the old houses are open to the public.With more than one hundred rooms, the Hall of Shen’s Residence is one of the most interesting of the private houses in Zhouzhuang.Shen House was built in 1742 by the son of the first millionaire of the province, Shen Wansan. He made his fortune from the silk trade.In the visit to Shen House, tourists can see the Qing’s style complex, which consists of several buildings connected through arcades, aisles and courtyards.
Some of the points of interest in the Shen House are the water gate and the wharf, the gate tower, the tearoom, the main hall; and the Xiaotang Tower and Back Hall, where cultural relics are exhibited.
The origins of the ancient China city date back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC). In the 11th century its name was changed to the present Zhouzhuang after the name of Zhou Digong, a rich merchant who had donated the money to build a Buddhist temple.
The city of Zhouzhuang is traffic free. It is small enough to be visited in a few hours. Because this is one of China’s top tourist destinations some parts of the town are overcrowded with Chinese tourists.
Walking along the narrow alleys of Zhouzhuang is a good way to see the ancient houses that have been torn down almost everywhere else in the region. At the same time is a good place to see how fast China is changing. I was surprised to see how the most advanced and expensive digital cameras belonged to local tourists.
Zhouzhuang has more than one thousand houses. Of them, almost one hundred have their own courtyard and arch gateways made of stone brick.
One of the households open to the public is the Ye Chucang Residence. Ye Chucang (19th-20th century), was a poet famous for his campaigns against the consumption of opium and gambling, which were popular pastimes among local people at that time.
Zhang House, with more than seventy rooms, is another of the ancient houses tourists can visit. The house was built by Xu’s family in the 15th century. The property was bought by the Zhang family in the early Qing Dynasty.Zhang house has several buildings and courtyards. The river flows under the main hall. The place is currently under the protection of the local government.
A good way to visit the town is on one of the local gondolas. You can rent one of them for a tour of the town.You will have to look for one of the empty boats, and ask the rower for the price. You can negotiate the fare. Some of the organized tours include a gondola ride, but most of them don’t.
There are four water canals that form a grid pattern. The canal streets are lined with willow and poplar trees.There are a total of 14 stone bridges, traditional Chinese gondolas navigate under them.
The history of tourism in Zhouzhuang began in 1984, when one of the paintings on display in a New York art gallery was bought by Armand Hammer. The American businessman later presented this painting to Deng Xiaoping. This act was broadly publicized in China. Since then, Chinese visitors have flooded the town during the tourist season.
The Quanfu Temple is situated at one of the ends of the city , next to the Nanhu Garden.