Zhouzhuang: the Oriental Venice

Zhouzhuang, once called Zhenfengli, is located in Kunshan City, 30 km to the southeast of Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, covering an area of 0.4 square km. Although there are other towns in China such as Tongli, dissected by streams, rivers and canals, Zhouzhuang is the most famous such "water town" nowadays for its quiet and exquisite surroundings, and simple and ancient architecture.

Zhouzhuang is known as the Venice of the Orient. Water lanes are the town's main roads, and the Gondola-like boats traveling swiftly up and down the canals become the most common mode of transport here. The town has a history of 900 years, and in ancient times, it served as an important distribution center for commodities like silk, porcelain, crafts and grain, because of its unique geographical location. It is closely connected with the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.

The most interesting travel route is walking along the banks or rowing a boat through the stone arch bridges. You can board man-powered tour boats from anywhere along the canals. They'll take you through all the major scenic spots in the town. You'll also see a number of ancient bridges straddling the rivers, and many old houses flanked along the winding water lanes. The houses commonly have two floors, with white walls and black roofs, various styles of windows out of which often poke many bamboo poles carrying the household laundry. The local people use the water to do their washing, and also do their shopping by lowering a pole with a basket on the end to the vendors sitting in their boats. Along the roads, there are various forms of stone blocks every 10 meters for the boats stop.

Another great attraction in Zhouzhuang is its well-preserved ancient architecture, such as temples, towers, pagodas and residential buildings, which are a testimony to the town's ancient history. Although more than 900 years have past, its architectural style is still well preserved, more than 60 percent of the residential houses were built during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, consisting of nearly 100 classic courtyards and 60 carved brick archways. They usually have two stories and feature upturned eaves, white brick walls, black tiles, and crimson wooden windows and doors. These houses serve as a living museum for people today to get a glimpse of how the locals lived all those years ago.

Source: www.crienglish.com