Zhouzhuang, one of the most famous water townships in China, situated in Kunshan City which is only 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Suzhou.Zhouzhuang has a history of more than 900 years, and it has been called “The Water Land” since ancient times. It is noted for its profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses, the elegant watery views and the strong local colored traditions and customs.
It covers an area of half a square kilometer, 60 percent of the Zhouzhuang’s structures were built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, which is from 1368 to 1911. An ancient Chinese poem described Zhouzhuang as a town with small bridges, murmuring streams and thatched dwellings. The four streams in the town including Chenghu, Baixian, Dianshan and Nanhu, which flow through the town in a criss-cross fashion, earning the town the epithet of “The Venice of China”.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.
The town benefits from the beauty of rivers and lakes. The 14 ancient bridges on the river were built during the Yuan (1271 – 1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644 -1911) dynasties. Double Bridge is one tourist clamor to visit, where two bridges positioned to form a right angle over the stream. Another noteworthy bridge is Fu’an Bridge, which is the oldest bridge in Zhouzhuang – built in 1355.
Residents of the ancient town built their houses and streets along the rivers. Over 60% of the town’s buildings date back to the early Ming Dynasty. Two buildings in particular attract lots of tourists: Shen Ting (Hall of Shen) built in 1742 and Zhang Ting (Hall of Zhang). Tourists can also take a gondola to experience the small water town.
The Hall of Shen’s Residence, originally known as Jingye Tang, was built by Shen Wansan’s (a legendary tycoon in the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River) descendant Shen Benren in the year of 1742. Shen House is divided into three parts. The former part is water gateways and wharves for the locals’ daily chores like washing and anchoring. It is typical architecture of water village of the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The middle part is the hallway, main hall, and tea room. Meetings, funerals, weddings can be held here. The third part is the back hall and some rooms for the locals’ living. All rooms and halls are connected by corridors. If travelers are fond of engravings, they can find many masterpieces in Shen House. Having been devastated during the year of 1966-1976, the residence relived after restoration since 1983. And now, as a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at Jiangsu provincial level, it enjoys great popularity amongst visitors.
As one of the few architecture of Ming Dynasty style, Zhang House, covering an area of 1800 square metres and boasting over 70 rooms, is listed as a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at Jiangsu provincial level. It is said it was construct in the Zhengtong Period (1436-1449) of Ming Dynasty and was sold out to a Zhang’s family, thus changing its name from Yishun Tang to Yuyan Tang (commonly known as Zhang Ting). Through five hundred plus years, the Zhang House still remains grand as a dwelling of the well-off. For those who come from metropolises, sauntering inside is by no means seeking sheer thrills, but dissolving frustration or wretchedness in the beauty and peace of the house.
Residence of Shen Wansan
This attraction, based on relevant stories of Shen Wansan, vividly displays how he obtained his wealth, his bumpy experience, legendary lifetime and the daily life of the whole family via bronze statues, brick carvings, carved lacquerware, realistic models, comic strips, clay sculptures and any other means of aesthetic expressions. It is no doubt that it is a human landscape of moment in Zhouzhuang.
Twin Bridge is made up of a stone arch bridge – Shide Bridge (世德桥) and a stone beam bridge – Yong’an Bridge (永安桥). The locals also refer to it as Key Bridge (钥匙桥) because of the shape of the two bridge holes, one being round, the other square, much like the keys people use in the ancient times. These two stone bridges was first constructed between 1573 and 1619, and then renovated several times later. Shide Bridge spans 16 metres, 3 metres wide, while Yong’an Bridge is 13.3 metres long, 2.4 metres wide. Every year, numerous art college students will come here to fill their sketch books with drawings of the splendid scenery of Zhouzhuang. Photographers prefer this magic place, too. Finding a vintage point, you can fix your experience with your camera.