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Wuzhen, the Genuine "Jiang Nan"
2006-04-13 08:49:31

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Wuzhen, a town with a history spanning 1200 years, is just 50 minutes' drive from Hangzhou, the provincial capital of Zhejiang Province. Like many water towns along the Yangtze River, Wuzhen enjoys a special natural beauty. Yet setting it apart from other towns, Wuzhen also provides visitors a window into a unique cultural heritage as a result of its long history.

Chinese people say that unless you have visited the Great Wall, then you haven't been to China. But for any visit south of the Yangtze River – the area Chinese people call "Jiang Nan" - one place surely not to be missed is the town of Wuzhen.
When this ancient water town became known to tourists in early 2001, its locals were determined to avoid the tacky mix of tourist restaurants and souvenir shops that has swamped other nearby water towns. Wuzhen has been preserved rather than restored, lovingly kept rather than tarted up, and its ancient ways of life maintained. Most of all, Wuzhen is still a living town, where daily life goes on, seemingly unimpeded by the growing trickle of visitors.


On both sides of slab stone-paved streets stand traditional black-tiled, oil-painted timber framework houses, providing a sharp contrast with their white walls and gray flagging. Rivers and creeks spanned by stone bridges of various designs flow through the town, and the Grand Canal connecting Beijing and Hangzhou passes by.
Wuzhen, in Tongxiang City, Zhejiang Province, has a history of well over 1,000 years, which has endowed the town with many sites of historical and cultural interest. From the Song through the Qing Dynasties, Wuzhen had given birth to more successful candidates in the highest imperial examinations than any other town south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Standing as testimony to the town's dedication to education, the Lizhi Academy of Classical Learning from the Qing Dynasty, which had been inspiring the ambitious young locals in ancient times, still retains its original appearance.

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties, Crown Prince Liang Zhaoming studied in Wuzhen. The prince is famous for his Literary Selections by Zhaoming, a milestone in the history of Chinese literature, and the town of Wuzhen built a memorial archway to commemorate his stay. Other historical and cultural sites include the Wenchang Pavilion, the Xiuzhen Taoist Temple, the ancient theaters, the mansions of the Imperial Academy officials and the former residence of renowned contemporary Chinese literate Mao Dun.
Tradition is still very much alive in Wuzhen. In addition to flower-drum opera, shadow-puppet shows and temple fairs, Wuzhen also attracts visitors through its time-honored art of making indigo-dyed printed calico.

Wuzhen, Back in Time

Drizzly Wuzhen


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