China Zhouzhuang City:
Zhouzhuang lies at the middle between Shanghai and Suzhou, is an ancient town of Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province, where abounds with rivers and lakes. So it is thought by many to be the best waterside town in China.This ancient town has a history of more than 900 years old with many houses built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. There are about 100 houses with courtyards, and 60 of them have arch gateways made by carved bricks.
With lakes on four sides, the beauty of Zhouzhuang is specially to be found along the waterside lanes and around a number of the stone bridges. A different vista at every turn can be found here. All those make a visit most enjoyable. Also, one can enjoy the fairyland atmosphere of the evenings here when the myriad stars twinkle as though in communication with the glittering lights.
Zhouzhuang, one of the most famous water-towns in China, is situated in Kunshan City, 30 km southeast of Suzhou. It is noted for its profound cultural background, well-preserved ancient residential houses, elegant waters and traditional lifestyle with a strong local flavor.
In the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.), Zhouzhuang was a part of the fief Yaocheng, called Zhenfengli. Zhouzhuang got its present name in 1086 during the Northern Song Dynasty, in the memory of Zhou Digong, a very devout Buddhist, who donated this piece of land to the Quanfu (Full Fortune) Temple.
The town covers an area of 3600 hectares. Most of its residential houses, about 60 percent of the total, were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties, during the period from 1368 to 1911.
Shuangqiao (Twin Bridges): As Zhouzhuang is surrounded and at the same time divided by lakes and rivers, the 14 stone bridges crossing the rivers form eye-catching views in town. Twin Bridges, or the Shide Bridge and Yongan Bridge, in the northeast of the town, are the most famous and have been considered as the symbol of Zhouzhuang. The bridges were built during the Wanli reign (1573-1619) of the Ming Dynasty. Shide Bridge lies east-west and has a round arch, while Yongan Bridge goes north-south and has a square arch. Joining each other after crossing the two rivers, Yinzi Creek and Nabeishi River, respectively, the Twin Bridges look like an old-fashioned Chinese key. In 1984, Chen Yifei, a promising contemporary Chinese painter, exhibited 38 of his canvases in a New York gallery owned by Armand Hammer, chairman of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation. One of his works, Memory of Hometown, which depicts the Twin Bridges, drew worldwide attention to Zhouzhuang. The painting was chosen as the design of the first-day cover of the United Nations' postage stamps in 1985.
Fuanqiao Bridge: Located at the eastern end of Zhongshi Street, Fuanqiao Bridge was built in 1355 during the Yuan Dynasty. The unique trait of the bridge is the consummate combination of the single-arch bridge and the bridge towers used as tearooms, restaurants and stores, as well as a venue to appreciate the water views.
The Shen House: Located at the southeast side of Fuanqiao Bridge, the Shen House was Built in 1742 as a private property of the descendants of Shen Wansan, the first millionaire in the area south of the Yangtze River in the early Qing Dynasty. The whole complex is of the Qing architectural style. It occupies an area of more than 2,000 square meters and has over 100 rooms divided in three sections. The first section includes the water gate and wharf, where the Shens moored boats and washed clothes. The middle section includes the gate tower, the tearoom and the main hall. The bricks of the gate tower are carved with lively and ingenious figures, which either tell historic stories or express good wishes. The tearoom and main hall, where the owner met his guests, are very elegantly furnished. The last section, which consists of several buildings in a different style, is comfortably furnished. In Datang Tower, a colored sculpture of the legendary Shen Wansan is displayed, while precious cultural relics collected by the family are exhibited in Xiaotang Tower and Back Hall.
The Zhang House: It was built by Xu family in the Zhengtong reign (1436 - 1449) of the Ming Dynasty and bought by the Zhang family in the early Qing Dynasty. Located to the south of the Twin Bridges, the Zhang House has more than 70 rooms in an area of about 1,800 square meters. The Ruojing River winding through it makes the Zhang House a dapper and graceful residential house with a tranquil courtyard, a pond and various halls.
Milou Tower: Once called the Des' Tavern, Milou Tower perches next to Zhenfeng Bridge situated at the southwest corner of Zhouzhuang. It is famous for being a rallying place of the literati in old times. Numerous poems, songs and stories about Milou Tower have been widely spread in the country.
Chengxu Taoist Temple: Standing on Zhongshi Street, on the opposite of the Puqing Bridge, Chengxu Taoist Temple, also known as Shengtang Hall, was built during 1086-1093 of the Song Dynasty. After several expansions, it became one of the most famous Taoist temples in the Yangtze River Delta. In an area of 1,500 square meters, there are masterpiece Taoist architectures in simple but majestic style, including the Shengdi and Doumu halls, and the pavilions of Yuhuang, Wenchang and Shengdi.
Besides these historic sights, the local folklore, traditions and legends of this water-town, such as the dragon boat race, the "granny tea" and the Wansan home-style banquet are also indispensable elements of a tour to Zhouzhuang.
Zhouzhuang Attractive points:
Zhouzhuang is the most developed 'water town' of jiangnan. Because of that it is very commercial. I guess I have to admit that it has the best scenery.
Known as a collection of beauty, Zhouzhuang, once called Zhenfengli, is an ancient water town of Kunshan City in Jiangsu Province and where rivers and lakes abound. It is located between the cities Shanghai and Suzhou. The town has stood up well through the years, 900 to be specific, and remains as it was so long ago. The typical style and features of the water town and even its inhabitants' way of life remains unchanged. The houses built by the streams have sidewalks, which have naturally evolved into streets used for transportation, together along with the water lanes. Overhead stone bridges span over the water lanes, providing convenient passage for the local people. Murmuring streams flow under small bridges and courtyards. These bridges and courtyards are each surrounded by dwelling quarters, which are typical features of Zhouzhuang and even the whole of East China.
Zhouzhuang is like a water nymph standing on a lake. The layout of its water lanes is perfectly arranged so that it looks like the Chinese character "#". Many stone bridges are built over them, linking up the households on either side of each stream. These stone bridges are very old, 14 of which were built between the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The most representative among them are the Twin Bridge, Fu'an Bridge, Zhenfeng Bridge and Fuhong Bridge. There is a beautiful saying that is popular among the folks in China-"the Heavens have their Paradise while the earth is proud of having Suzhou and Hangzhou." Zhouzhuang is just like Water Lily in-between.
Moreover, Zhouzhuang boasts rich cultural resources like Grandmother Tea, and such simple local customs as fast boating.
People of Zhouzhuang have a way of drinking tea. They use ancient tea sets, boil water in pottery or earthen jars, and have bamboo slices or branches as fuel. Several minutes after washing the tea, they pour on it boiled water. By such means, the tea, beautiful in color, is both fragrant and tasteful. But why is it called Grandmother Tea? People used to see groups of old women sitting together and drinking tea leisurely. Hence, the name.
Fast boating goes far back to the Qing dynasty, originally started to raise the morale of soldiers. Later on, people held races on holidays, in weddings, and during the time of harvests. At present, travel boats are provided for tourists to do sightseeing around.
Bambooware and bronze braziers have also won enormous acclaim for Zhouzhuang. The durable bambooware is known far and wide for its fine workmanship, while the exquisite bronze braziers of many shapes once won a prize in the South Pacific Industrial Expo and the reputation of "Zhouzhuang Braziers".