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Zhouzhuang-Ancient Waterside Town
2004/06/09

Zhouzhuang is located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province, between the cities of Suzhou and Shanghai, and embraced by the lakes Chenghu, Dianshan and Nanhu. Its covers a total area of 36.05 square kilometers and has a population of 22 thousand. As early as 6,000 years ago there were people living on this land. In 1086, the town got its name, "Zhouzhuang." This 900-year old waterside town boasts of age-old traditions, simple and homely customs, ancient buildings, a clear running river and legendary residents. Every year, thousands of tourists are attracted to this charming place.
Few waterside towns in China have kept their original appearances, but in Zhouzhuang sixty percent of the dwellings were built in the Ming (1368--1644) and Qing (1644--1911) dynasties. The river and lakes around Zhouzhuang have protected it from the turmoil and chaos of wars, thus allowing its buildings to remain intact. The rivers inside the town form a "#" shape, with people's dwellings built alongside it. Fourteen ancient bridges link the whole town together.
Zhoangzhuang's charm also lies in its rich cultural environment. The Suangqiao Bridge, Fu'an Bridge and Zhenfeng Bridge reveal to people the unique "bridge culture." The extravagant house of Ming Dynasty millionaire Shen Wansan; the tower that poet Liu Yazi recited poems from when he got drunk; the teahouse where Taiwan writer San Mao fully enjoyed herself; the history museum of the old town; temples that have large number of worshipers; walls built with embedded wine vats and various sorts of delicate handcrafts--all these give the town a dense cultural character.
The pace of life in Zhouzhuang is carefree and leisurely. Women embroider their belts and scarves by hand, while people here like to invite each other to have tea at one another's home. At night many small boats carrying tourists or locals float down the network of channels in Zhouzhuang. Boatmen quietly roll their sculls and softly sing some local ditties.
During the recent rapid economic development in rural areas, the characteristics of many ancient towns are being destroyed by modern construction. The traditional cultures in those places are diminishing. But Zhouzhuang doesn't follow suit, rather it has accelerates its pace of protecting itself. In 1998, Zhouzhuang was short-listed by the UNESCO in the preliminary list of "World Cultural Heritage Sites."
Zhoushuang residents implore you, "Come and explore this piece of dreamland!"


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