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Shanghai Water Towns

There are seven well-known water towns around Shanghai, including Zhujiajiao, Zhouzhuang, Tongli, Wuzhen, Xitang, Luzhi and Nanxun. They are characterized by burbling brooks, arched bridges, slab-stone paved alleys, waterside teahouses and white-washed Ming and Qing dynasties residences, which are a living cultural heritage and reveal a unique waterside lifestyle of folks.

Seven Ancient Water Towns around Shanghai

1. Zhujiajiao Water Town (朱家角古镇)

Located in 47 kilometers away from Shanghai, Zhujiajiao Water Town is known as "the Venice of Shanghai". It is a well-preserved ancient town in Qingpu District, south of the Yangtze River, which has almost 1700 years of history. Covering an area of 47 square kilometers, the typical and ancient town features expedite waterways, curved rock bridges, old streets cemented with stone and over 10,000 buildings with thousand years history.

Strolling on the stone pathway or rowing a small boat on the winding long channel, you will feel like walking in the historical painting. The numerous historical attractions on both banks come into view, including the most famous Fangsheng Bridge, Kezhi Park and Yuanjin Buddhist Temple.

Fangsheng Bridge

There is an old local saying, "Visiting Zhujiajiao without seeing the bridges means that you have not really been to Zhujiajiao at all." There are 36 special bridges with different shapes and styles from wooden to stone or marble.

Fangsheng Bridge, translated roughly into "freeing captive animals", is the longest, largest and tallest stone bridge which was built in 1571. On the bridge stands a stone named Dragon Gate Stone and 4 lifelike stone lions. All around the bridge, you will see women selling bags of fish that you can release them into the river from the bridge.

Fangsheng Bridge

Kezhi Park

Situated at North Street which filled with representative ancient building from the Ming and Qing dynasties, Kezhi Park is the biggest manor style private park in this town. It was built in 1912. The architecture in the park is a combination of Chinese traditional and the Western style. The park is divided into two parts: the Ke Garden and the Zhi Garden. "Ke" in Chinese means "study" and "Zhi" means "farming", implying that people should study and farm to keep the house.

Yuanjin Buddhist Temple

Yuanjin Buddhist Temple locates at the cross river of Caogang River and Pearl Stream, where is a place with beautiful landscape in Zhujiajiao. The temple was firstly built during the power of Zhizheng in Yuan Dynasty. Though it is small in number of Buddhists, the sculpture is fine, colorful as well as serious with the sense of holiness.

Yuanjin Buddhist Temple

How to get there?

* Take the tourism bus at Shanghai Stadium or Hongkou Soccer Stadium in the morning.
* Take the Huzhu (Shanghai - Zhujiajiao) Special Line at Laochengdu Road or Yan'an Road, get off at Zhujiajiao Station. The bus runs between 7:00 – 17:45 to Zhujiajiao every 10 minutes, and returns from 5:50 to 17:15.
* Take Huzhu Express Line at People's Square Pu'an Road Jinling Road and arrive in Zhujiajiao one hour later. There is a bus every half an hour.
* Take Shangzhu Line at the Shanghai South Railway Station or Shangtai Line at North Caixi Road Bus Terminus to Qingpu Bus Station first. Then there is a bus every 10 minutes to Zhujiajiao.

Zhouzhuang Ancient Town

2. Zhouzhuang Ancient Town (周庄古镇)

Zhouzhuang lies at the middle between Shanghai and Suzhou, is an ancient town of Kunshan city, Jiangsu province, where abounds with rivers and lakes. It is 100 kilometers away from Shanghai.

Zhouzhuang boasts of simple, well-preserved architecture dating back more than 900 years. The majority of residences were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and nearly 100 classic courtyards and 60 carved-brick archways are still in use. In this water village, locals live their life on the waterways, carry out everyday activities on the water, and wash clothes and shop from vendors in boats.

Highlights in Zhouzhuang includes Waterlanes & Stone bridges, the Twin Bridge, Fu'an Bridge, Shen's House, Zhang's House and more other ancient buildings.

How to get there from Shanghai?

* Take bus from Shanghai South Bus Station, No. 36, Liuzhou Road; Only 2 shuttle bus; around 1 hour
* Take bus from Shanghai West Bus Station, No.298, Shenhong Road; Only 2 shuttle bus; around 1 hour
* Take bus from Shanghai General Bus Station, No.1666, Zhongxing Road

Tongli Town

3. Tongli Town (同里古镇)

Tongli is an old but well-preserved water town, with a history of more than 1,000 years. It locates a short distance from Suzhou, and about 100 kilometers away from Shanghai.

Tongli town is famous for its 49 stone bridges in a variety of styles which span 15 rivers and 5 lakes in Tongli area. Each bridge has a special name giving you an idea of the poetic nature of the inhabitants, such as Tranquility (Taiping) Bridge, Luck (Jili) Bridge and Lasting Celebration (Changqing) Bridge. If you are a lucky man, and come across a wedding, you will see many folks walk through the bridges, which is supposed to bring peace, fortune and happiness during their lives. All bridges are regarded as the landmarks of the place and the sacred architecture by the locals.


4. Wuzhen (苏州乌镇)

Wuzhen is located in the north of Zhejiang Province, about 150 kilometers away from Shanghai. It plays a very important part in waterway transport, as a part of the Beijing-Hang Grand Canal. The houses line the waterways and the bustle of traders peddle near bridges which are the original picture.

There are a lot of famous attractions, including the Former Residence of Maodun, Xiu Zhen Guan, Ancient Stage and folks' houses.

How to get there from Shanghai?

* Take Shanghai – Wuzhen highway bus that depart daily at certain time; about 2 hours.

Xitang Historical Town

5. Xitang Historical Town (西塘古镇)

Xitang Town is an ideal day-trip attraction from Hangzhou or Shanghai. It is located at the northern Jiashan County in Zhejiang province and about 90 kilometers away from Shanghai. The whole old town is like a poem and a picture. In this town, people will feel that they are seemingly in an earthly paradise. It is hard to know that people exist in the picture or picture exists in the heart of people.

Xitang has a very quiet natural environment. Nine rivers flow in this town and divide it into eight sections, but many bridges link them together ( anciently called as "nine dragon old pearl" and "wind from eight sides" ). Inside the town, there are many well-preserved architectural groups constructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties, which boast of a higher artistry and study value.

Through a bird's eye view of the whole town, green waves ripple everywhere and every family resides near water. In the morning, water flows beneath bridges, thin mist is like silk, and pinkish walls on both banks are reflected inversely in the water.

How to get to Xitang?

* Take 30 minutes high-speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao station;
* Take bus from Gate 5 in Shanghai Gym of Xuhui District at 9 am every Saturday and Sunday;
* Take special bus at the Travel Collecting and Distributing Center of Shanghai, depart at 8:35am every weekday and return at 4:30 pm.

Luzhi Water Town

6. Luzhi Water Town (甪直古镇)

Luzhi ancient town is in Kunshan city, about 100 kilometers away from Shanghai. It is an old but beautiful water town with a long history of more than 2,500 years.

The natural beauty of the town is indescribable. Old stone-arch bridges, limpid flowing water, venerable maidenhair trees and old-style house buildings, as well as the traditional women's costumes, together create an ideal "civilized, rich, pastoral and harmonious" environment.

There are around 41 well-preserved ancient stone bridges of different style and size, which have their special names, such as Zhengyang Bridge and Dongmei Bridge. In addition, Luzhi is noted for several historical and cultural relics, such as Baosheng temple, the Wansheng Rice Company and the White Lotus Flower Temple of the North Song Dynasty.

How to get there?

* Take bus from Shanghai bus stationg, No.806, Zhongshan North Road to Luzhi. Around 10 buses every day.
* On weekends or public vacation, special tourist buses will be operated on the route: Shanghai Yangpu sport center at 7:30, Hongkou football stadium at 8:00 and Shanghai sport stadium at 8:30

Nanxun Ancient Town

7. Nanxun Ancient Town (南浔古镇)

Nanxun town is located in the north of Zhajiang Province and about 120 kilometers west of Shanghai. It was one of the few "affluentest towns" in China and was called the "Town of Weath". In the Qing Dynasty, the town was the focus of many wealth merchants and they once engaged in business and settles down here. In addition, it is a cultural historical town.

Through the baptism of the war, the high quality construction and buildings in Nanxun Ancient Town are amazingly well-preserved. Besides the old houses, corridors, stone bridges and deep lanes like other ancient towns around, Nanxun Ancient Town is more famous due to the elegant and exquisite gardens. Most of these gardens are a combination of Chinese and Western styles. The most well-known gardens among them is Xiaolian Garden (Little Lotus Villa), which is built in the Qing Dynasty. The rippling lakes, tree-sheltered winding path in the garden will evoke a ambience of refreshing and relaxation. In the west part of the garden are ten ancient camphor trees.

How to get there?

* Take Shanghai - Huzhou bus which passes through Nanxun and have a stopover there.

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