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Zhouzhuang

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Zhouzhuang (周庄) [1] is China's oldest water town. It is the Venice of China (a description given to a number of towns). Be warned that there are a lot of tourists (although predominantly from China), which means high prices and lots of people hustling you to buy things. On holidays and weekends the old town will be so packed that it is difficult to move around. This aside it's worth the visit.

Understand

Zhouzhuang is located in the southeast city of Suzhou and in the Southwest of Kunshan. It was known as Zhenfeng Lane in ancient times. In the Spring and Autumn Period, Zhouzhuang was a part of the King of Wu and called Yaocheng. It was called Zhouzhuang after ZhouDigong donated more than 200 acres to local Quanfu Temple on the Yuan Dynasty (1860.on the mid-Yuan Dynasty, Wanshan Shen used the superior geographical advantage to do trade, hence, Zhouzhuang became a distribution center of food, silk, ceramics, arts and crafts in the south of China. It officially named Zhouzhuang town on the beginning of Qing Dynasty.

As the river into the street, giving Zhouzhuang a simple, vivacious and bright quiet. Therefore, it is the southern typical symbol “small bridge, flowing water, people”. Zhouzhuan likes a pearl embedded in river. The ancient town, which has a history of more than 900years old still keeps the intact, original ancient water village’s style and pattern. The most famous attractions are Fu’an Bridge, Double Bridge and the Hall of Shen’s Residence. Fu’an Bridge is the only remaining three-dimensional building which made a connection between bridge and house. Zhouzhuang is surrounded and divided by lakes and rivers, 14 stone bridges cross the rivers, showing distinctive views of the water-town. Double Bridge connected by two bridges as a whole. Stone Bridge was built in Ming Dynasty. It is firm and simple, and composed by a stone arch bridge and a beam bridge. The Stone Bridge, likes a lock, tightly connects the north-south River and Silver Band River. The Hall of Shen’s Residence is Qing-style. The overall structure looks very rigorous and the parts of the hall have different scenery. In addition, there are Quanfu Temple (Buddhist) and Chengxu Temple (Taoist) and other religion sites. The whole town connected to the bridges and streets, all houses were built on the river. The boat gently rocking and green shadow whirling on the bank of river. When you visit it, you will feel you are in a picture. Overseas newspapers called Zhouzhuang as "China's first water village". “Small bridge, Flowing water, people” is the special characteristics of Zhouzhuang. Every family has its own pier in the water town. There is a proverb in Zhouzhuang is the “sedan chair through into the front door and the boat through the home gone”. “The boat through the home gone” means that there is a stream flows in the yard of the Hall of Zhang’s Residence. There is a big pool in Zhang’s Residence which used unloading in the past.

There is no seasonality in Zhouzhuang’s tourism, but you had batter not to go there on National Day and Labor Day. Because there will be over-crowing and you hardly move in the narrow alley and bridge. If you stay there, don't miss the nightfall and morning. Because you will feel the simple and original beauty of Zhouzhuang.

Get in

As the transportation is well-developed, it is very convenient to get Zhouzhuang. There is only 60 kilometers away from Zhouzhuang to Shanghai downtown; 38 kilometers away to Suzhou downtown; 30 kilometers away to Kunshan downtown.

By car

From Shanghai: A9 highway-getting off at Jinze- go about 4 km of 318 State Road-Shangzhou Road- Zhouzhuang From Kunshan: Kunzhou Road-Jinxi-Zhouzhuang, 38 killomaters From Suzhou (via Tongli): Suzhou-Sujia Road-Songling Town- Songbei Road- Pingwang-Huqingping Road-Beiku-Jinjiabei-Zhouzhuang From Suzhou (via Yongzhi):Suhong airport(via Yongzhi and Zhangpu)-Zhouxiang- Kunzhou Road-Dashi-Jinxi-Zhouzhuang,71 killomaters From Zhejiang: Jiaxing exit of the Huhang highway-Sujia Road-Pingwang-Huqingping Road-Beiku-Jinjiabei-Zhouzhuang

By bus

Shanghai: 1. Shanghai People Stadium. Tel: 64,265,555. Departure time: 7:00, 8:30, 9:05, 9:45, 12:10,14:00; the price is 200RMB include round-trip fees and visiting tickets 120RMB. 2. Hongkou Football Stadium. The No.5 gate. Departure time: 8:15 and 16:15 to return. The price is 240RMB include round-trip fees and enter the tourist area of Zhouzhuang (120RMB)

In general, the price is reasonable, because the entering fee of Zhouzhuang is 160RMB. But it gives you only 5.5 hours in the town. It is not enough to enjoy the beauty spot to lots of people.

If you go there at night (after 9:30pm or even later), you can directly go into it without any payment. It is really a good way to save money. Also, you can get up early the next day and travel around in it, the morning is not crowded, and so you can have a better experience in it. The majority travelers will come after 10:00am.

Suzhou: 1.Ferry Terminal. Departure time: 10:40, 14:30. 2. Wuxian bus station. Departure time: 7:15, 9:40, 14:15, 14:20. 3. North bus station. It is a tourist bus. Departure time is 6:45 and 18:00 to return. It comes every half an hour and takes about 60 minutes.

See

Do

1.Ancient stage (Drama performances, folk songs, ballads, etc.) 2.Zhenfeng Street (the show of tradition handicraft : blacksmith, paper cutting, straw, clay sculpture, spinning, weaving, brewing,) 3.Jubin building (the show of speaking and singing) 4.Water Alley (Osprey fishing show) 5.Zhouzhuang Night (visiting Zhouzhuang at night and appreciating light show)

On April, Tea Culture Exhibition (the teas that are Lady Tea, Wedding Rea, etc.)

On May, Dragon Boat Festival (visiting ghost boat, dragon-boat race, eating salted egg, dumplings and seasonal fresh fruit, etc)

There are many boat tours that will take you all around to see the entire town. A typical boat tour will cost you around ¥20-40.

Eat

Wansan pig’s upper leg.There are many special snacks in Zhouzhuang and the most famous one is Wansan pig’s upper leg, locally called “Wansan elbows” or “Wansan hoof”, which originated in Wansan Shen’s family in the Ming Dynasty. It is the necessary dishes when entertain guests. Although it looks fat, it is not greasy. It is sold at all local restaurant and shops.

The other local snacks are Wansan cake, Sesame cakes, peanut cakes, walnut cakes, salt and pepper cake, green cake, tiny cucumber, shrimp and a vegetable call “Chuncai”, which is lived in water and is used in soup. It tastes super delicious.

If you want to taste local classical food, just go to “Wansan Family Feast”, the restaurant located on the Fu’an Bridge and still maintains the Ming-style. Specialties include Wansan elbow, glutinous rice balls, steamed mandarin fish, steamed eel stew extinguishers, bass soup with Shuncai, ginger snail, Cypriot meat oil package, venetian package of meat, stewed dried tofu, steamed lotus root and so on. It is a very local-style restaurant.

Aquatic products in zhouzhuang are available all the year round and the bests of them are perches, white clams and fresh – water white baits.

Buy

The people of Zhouzhuang are ingenuity. They developed lots of high level of traditional crafts through the 900 years’ development. The Bamboo Woven and Zhuanglu are the symbol of traditional crafts. Zhouzhuang’s teapot is also different from other place. It usually made of porcelain or ceramic, but in Zhouzhuang it is stone teapot. There is also lots of Suzhou embroidery, pearls.

Sleep

Usuall Zhouzhuang is considered as a day trip destination. Most of visitors come back to Shanghai or Suzhou. Most of star-grade hotels in Zhouzhuang are in the new city area and there are many of them. Yunhai Resort (the four star hotel) stands beside beautiful Baixun Lake. The price is starts 260RMB. Three Oxens Garden Hotel (the three star hotel) is situated in central Zhouzhuang. The price is starts 210 RMB. Yunting Villa (the four star hotel) is located in the ancient town. The hotel closes to some famous sights such as the Double Bridge, Shen’s House and Zhang’s House. It is about 45km from the airport and 38km from the railway station and the city center. The price is starts 190 RMB.

There is also a youth hostel named twinbridge hostel in Zhouzhuang,which is only a few steps to the symbol of Zhouzhuang,the twinbridge.The price is quite competitive for the people who travel a lot.And it is very near to the other scenics of Zhouzhuang.The persons in that hostel can speak very fluent English,they are kind enough to help you with all your trip in Zhouzhuang.

If you enjoy a romantic setting, you can choose private guesthouses, which are situated along the river and the price range from 100 to 300RMB a night.

Stay safe

Be aware that Zhouzhuang, while indeed an old, beautiful and cool town, can be very commercialized, and contains aggressive sales people and vendors, and that can spoil your visit. Suzhou-area locals seem to strongly concur with this perception. There are also many other beautiful little water towns throughout this area of southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang.

Since there many canals, be safe around water edges. Many areas do not have fencing.

Do not be scammed by vendors. Many will say items are handcrafted and hand painted. If an item is in extreme abundance the item is likely made in mass quantity. Some vendors will even have paint sitting out to portray the idea that the items are handcrafted

Get out

The bus station (NOT the sightseeing bus parking lot at Fuguiyuan) is located at the north end of town on Daqiao Lu. According to the 3RMB map sold by old ladies in various parking lots around town, the bus schedule runs like this:

To 青浦(Qingpu) from 0630 to 1720, every 30 minutes.

To 苏州 (Suzhou) from 0610 to 1700, every 30 minutes.

To 上海(Shanghai) 0600, 0830, 0915, 1140, 1250, 1420, 1620

To 嘉兴 (Jiaxing) 0850, 1235

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