The ancient Water - Town
town with a history of 1200 years, is just 50 minutes'
drive from Hangzhou City. This small town, with its
black tiled, tung oil-painted timber framework houses,
that contrast sharply with its white walls and gray
flagging, brings to mind a Chinese ink and wash painting.
The river running through the town was once the main
means of transportation for local people, but these
days is little used, other than when festive celebrations
are held, calling for bulk cargo to be shipped in. The
window sills of the houses on the banks of the river
are further extended with boards, on which flowers,
plants and bonsai bloom in the warm sunshine, adding
a touch of life and color to this tranquil, archaic
pay little attention to tourists, preferring to get on with
their work, or to pass the time of day with their neighbors.
The elderly like to gather in the pavilion at the head of
the bridge, and talk over everyday matters.
There are some well preserved Ming and Qing dynasty buildings
in the town, formerly the homes of those rich enough to escape
the social turbulence of past centuries, and who chose Wuzhen
as the place to build them for its out-of-the-way location
and convenient transportation. There are several ancient villas
and gardens in the town, of which the Zhu Family Hall is the
most famous. Built in the late Qing Dynasty, the house has
two storeys, each with a hall floored in square bricks --
unusual for civil buildings in south China at that time. The
Xu Family Hall is noted for the carvings that decorate almost
each wooden part of its structure, and it has consequently
been converted into a wood carving and architectural museum.
The Jin Family Hall and the adjacent Wang Family Hall combine
to form the Wuzhen Folklore Museum, where visitors may see
exhibits and displays of local customs when celebrating weddings,
birthdays and festivals.
A wedding boat makes a circuit along the River-side Town Carnival
In the town center
is a small square with a high stage. The actors, mostly local
people, perform Shaoxing, Peking and flower-drum
operas, all for free, as members of the audience mill around
the square, coming and going as they please. It is said that
performances were originally dedicated to the gods worshiped
in the Xiuzhen Temple, opposite the stage. One of the three
most renowned Taoist temples in south China, the Xiuzhen Temple
has been destroyed and rebuilt several times in its history,
and lost much of its former splendor in the process. A giant
abacus, rather than a tablet, hangs over its gate, engraved
on both sides with the couplet: "Man may have one thousand
schemes, but God has just one disposition."
Another noteworthy feature of the town is its 1,000-year-old
gingko tree. It is said that there was formerly a temple beside
the tree in commemoration of a General Wu. According to local
legend, General Wu defended the town during a war, but was
eventually killed by the enemy. Upon his death the local people
buried him in their town. The age-old gingko tree is now the
only witness to that piece of history.
Much of the fame of Wuzhen Town can be attributed to Mao Dun,
a great modern writer and the first cultural minister of the
People's Republic. Born in Wuzhen, Mao has described the town
with great warmth in several of his novels, and his former
dwelling is preserved here. This Japanese-style building was
built at Mao's own expenses, and its interior is surprisingly
There are several teahouses by the river, all clean, comfortable
and pleasant. Great enjoyment may be experienced sipping green
tea by a teahouse window, while admiring the pastoral scenery
of this ancient riverside town.
spots in Wuzhen Town are concentrated in five regions.
One is the traditional workshops region, where visitors
can watch or participate in the production of local
specialties, such as indigo printed fabric, and in the
making of Sanbai wine, cloth shoes, cakes, and bamboo-ware.
The traditional residences region is where the family
residences mentioned may be found, and the traditional
culture region includes the former dwelling of Mao Dun,
the Xiuzhen Temple, the performance stage, Wenchang
Pavilion, and the Residence of the Imperial Academician.
Go to the traditional food and beverage region to enjoy
teahouses, such as the Fangluge and Tianyunlou teahouses,
and restaurants of traditional fame, like the Jiujianglou
Restaurant, and the Sanzhenzhai Restaurant, noted for
its braised chicken seasoned with soya sauce. The traditional
businesses region offers visitors the opportunity to
buy indigo printed fabric, silk, Gusao cake, tea and
Around late March/early April every year, Wuzhen Town
holds a River-side Town Carnival, during which various
local folk arts are demonstrated, and people from neighboring
areas come along to join in the jubilation.
for the morning tour to the traditional workshops, and
traditional residences regions takes in: Fengyuan Bridge,
Xiangshan Traditional Chinese Medicine Drugstore, The
God of Fortune Hall, Gongsheng Brewery, the Zhao Family
Hall, the Jin Family Hall, the weaving-spinning workshop,
the indigo printed fabric workshop, Dongtian Tea Garden,
the pastry workshop, the bamboo-ware workshop, and the
Xu Family Hall.
Lunch is at the Jiujianglou Restaurant.
The afternoon tour goes to: the former Dwelling of Mao
Dun, Xiuzhen Temple, the Residence of the Imperial Academician,
Fangluge Teahouse, and the pawnshop.