The Famous Water Towns Wuzhen and Xitang Three-Day Tour

On my graduation trip ten years ago, I went to Xitang for the first time. At that time, my first impressions of Xitang was perfect. I had my first contact with the water villages in Jiangnan. I stayed in Xitang for three days. In the daytime, I strolled around the ancient town, I drank tea and watched the life of the local residents while satting on the river bank; in the evenings, I drank wine in the bar street, listened to folk songs and yearned for a happy life after graduation.

The memory is very unforgettable. I have been to many small towns at home and abroad in the past ten years, but I have never found the get-acquainted feeling.

In the past ten years, Xitang has greatly renovated and expanded, newly-built commercial street and hotel street, newly-opened KFC and Starbucks, it is no longer a non-commercial and unspoilt village. This is a market economy and there is no way. Even so, I still want to look for the memories of ten years ago.

From Shanghai to Xitang, you can choose to take the high-speed rail to Jiashan Station and then take the bus (I chose this way ten years ago), or there are shuttle buses between Shanghai and Xitang, you can check the specific time online.

We pre-book the Yiman Hotel in the Xitang Scenic Spot in advance and get our discount fare of ¥70. All tickets purchased before 2 pm are available on the day of issue only (in and out of tourist attractions), and all tickets after 2 pm are valid for two days. If you only want to see the night scene, you can have an free access to the tourist attractions after 5 pm from Monday to Wednesday (internal attractions are closed). We buy 2 pm later tickets, with our identification card access to the scenic spot.

First day One of the six ancient towns in Jiangnan-regions south of the Yangtze River—Xitang in dreams

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When I come to Xitang again, I will feel it is familiar as well as unfamiliar. There are not many people a few days before national day, and the weather is not bad.

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There are stinky tofu stalls everywhere in Xitang. All stinky tofu unified distribution and unified formula, and they are exactly alike. But I read in the Internet that stinky tofu made by this auntie with two pigtails is authentic.

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To this day, I am still remember that stinky tofu made by Guan old woman. A bottle of iced Sprite is indeed a perfect match of stinky tofu in hot days.

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Xitang Water Town, lying in Jiashan County in Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province, is a famous town with thousands of years of history. Its flat terrain is marked by a quiet, natural environment with rivers running through it. The quiet water, handsome bridges, and the reflections in the early morning and the rosy sunset, fishing boats and the glistening lights in the evening, form an amazing picture full of a sense of poetry which can only be seen in the south lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The super star Tom Cruise once filmed Mission Impossible III in Xitang, leading to the boom of Xitang’s popularity among tourists. In the Xitang Water Village, there are well-preserved groups of buildings of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) with relatively high artistic quality and research value. It is famous for its large number of covered corridors, lanes and bridges.

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Many historical and cultural celebrities were given birth to by Xitang, so there are quite a few former residences to visit here.

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Even many tourists who have long been accustomed to the scenery of delicate bridges over flowing waters can’t help but praise to it when they arrive in Xitang: nice-looking, inside collect, random and well-spaced.

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Xitang is not big, so there is no need to memorize the route like Wuzhen. Secondly, as long as you walk along the river here, you can basically walk around the ancient town unconsciously.

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Alleys and ancient bridges are the specialties here. Wolong Bridge, dubbed “the largest and highest bridge in the locality”, stretches across the river and connects the famous Misty Rain Corridor. It is said that the tourists can see dragon eyes and dragon claws on the bridge as the sun rises.

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We have some time before sunset, let’s eat first and go to there afterwards. The restaurant name Seven Tables Boutique Restaurant we choose is a dining room adjacent river, it tastes good, the tourists can eat all that good Wuzhen food here.

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It is said that unmanned aerial vehicles are not allowed to fly in Xitang, probably because there are too many tourists and scenic area manager worries about the dangers. I consult the hotel owner, he suggests that I can take off from the hotel rooftop if I want to fly. As long as I take back the drone quickly, it is fine.

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The lights are on at 6 p.m.

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The night scene of Xitang is indeed more comely than other ancient towns. The overall lighting is orange-yellow light strips, dotted with red lanterns.

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The perspective provided by the unmanned aerial vehicles is indeed different, and it is estimated that it will be banned soon.

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As the sky darkened, I take back the drone and continue to visit the ancient town.

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The Yongning Bridge at night scene is a best location for taking photographs.

There are obviously many more tourists at night than the daytime. Many stores that are closed during the day are also lit up at night.

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The bar street is also vibrant, the music one after another announces the alternations of day and night of Xitang. But the phenomenon of soliciting in bars is always disgusting, and various discotheques don’t match the ancient town.

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The evening tourist boats are extremely active, coming and going, this can provide the inspiration for night shooting.

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When I was in Zhouzhuang, I photographed a lot of arched stone bridge. This kind of scenery of small bridges and flowing water will not be bored, no matter how the shooting is.

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For comparison, the image is a single 6-second exposure.

The following is a single 0.4 seconds exposure, I don’t know which kind do you like better.

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I’m ready to go back and rest at 8 p.m. The best time to visit the ancient town is early morning, except for shooting night scenes. I will visit again tomorrow morning.

The second day Xitang–Wuzhen Dongzha–Wuzhen Xizha

We go out before 6 o’clock in the morning. The sun is just rising when we go out. Xitang enters the most beautiful times of the day. I remember that I came out in the morning and could see traces of the villagers lives ten years ago, but now I can only see the staffs who maintain the ancient town.

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Xitang is really beautiful at sunrise.

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The staff works hard to clean up the garbage in the river in the morning.

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Xitang is one of the first batch of famous historical and cultural towns in China. The 2000-meter-long misty and rainy corridor is the most unique symbol of Xitang architecture.

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There are well-preserved 250,000 square meters of buildings from Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty in the old town. Its large scale and well preservation is rarely seen in regions south of the Yangtze River.

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The tranquil panorama of Xitang Ancient Town from the air.

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The streets built on the riverfront and the folk houses built along both sides of the river. Those stone bridges and corridors and stone road built along the river join every family together, which increase the beauty of this watertown in the south of Yangtze river.

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In the ancient town, there are 27 stone bridges, 122 ancient alleys and more than a thousand metres long corridor.

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In the morning sun, the staff works hard to ensure the fresh new look of Xitang ancient town for the whole day.

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Many folk houses adjacent river have been transformed into many family-run hotels. The tourists do not get up early in the morning, here is very quiet.

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There are no busy cruise ships on the river, Xitang recovers its regular serenity.

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Twenty-four stone bridges connect the five areas of the ancient town. Most of these ancient bridges are single-hole stone pillar and wooden beam bridges, remained intact to this day.

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The red lanterns in the ancient town are not only more pleasantly surprising at night, but also very beautiful during the day.

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The buildings in the ancient town dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties are well-protected .

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The decorations for Chinese copper coins will be bright as people step onto it in the night. Many children play here.

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I make the circuit of the ancient town and return to the hotel for breakfast. Art&Romance Hotel provides a rich breakfast buffet. After breakfast, I want to tour tourist attractions that I didn’t visit yesterday.

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At the moment, there are many tourists on the street, and the shops start going to work one after another.

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In Xitang Hall of Fame, we have a look at the cultural heritage of this ancient town. Wuzhen is not only renowned as a water town, but also boasts its numerous cultural celebrities in the history. During the period of Song, Ming and Qing dynasties, Wuzhen boasted almost 200 provincial graduates and metropolitan graduates. Lots of literators and calligraphers came to Wuzhen for study or settled down here. They had left precious cultural legacies for the later generations.

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Shipi Alley in Xitang is the passageway of royal families offspring, built in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, it is a representative of the ancient alleys of Xitang. It is said that a sewer under the flagstone road in the alley prevents water from accumulating in the rainy day, so the Shipi Alley has a saying of thin strip of sky in Xitang.

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Since the mid-1980s, Xitang Ancient Town has carried out timely scientific and reasonable urban planning and construction, so the most original water town folkways & scenery survives in almost whole.

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Through compiling and implementation of a series of protective plans, it has played an important role in guaranteeing the comprehensive protection of Xitang.

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The price of tourist boat ticket in Xitang is not expensive. A tourist boat to carry eight passengers in the western district costs 150 yuan, and a tourist boat to carry six passengers in the eastern district costs 100 yuan. The western route is open to night cruise ships.

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This is Art&Romance Hotel we stay in. I like to sit at the door, listen to music and drink tea at night. It is super comfortable.

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I wander around until ten o’clock at night, I am tired of here. The hustle and bustle of the commercial street is really disgusting. It is almost time to drive to Wuzhen. I am really reluctant to say goodbye to Xitang. I hope that there will be a chance to come back to Xitang in ten years.

It takes about an hour to drive from Xitang to Wuzhen. It is easier to drive on the road. After getting off the freeway, I drive directly to the Xizha parking lot.

Wuzhen Water Town, lying in the northern part of Tongxiang City, Zhejiang Province, is a typical ancient town in southern China. As one of the top six ancient towns in the southern region of the Yangtze River, Wuzhen Water Town boasts more than six thousand years of history and has always been a fertile land with abundant rice, fish and silk. It preserves the ancient appearance well and oozes charm of the water town itself. The small town, with houses made of black bricks and gray tiles contrasting sharply with the white walls, making it appear like a Chinese ink wash drawing. Stone bridges are seen here and there. Small boats with black awnings are floating on the murmuring rivers. Whether wandering along the riverside or strolling in the lanes paved with blue flagstones, you will be deeply impressed by the picturesque scenery and slow lifestyle. A crisscrossing river divides the whole Wuzhen Water Town into four scenic sections, which are respectively called as Dongzha, Nanzha, Xizha, and Beizha by local people. Since Nanzha and Beizha are less developed, tourists often prefer to visit Dongzha and Xizha. Dongzha maintains the basic original layout while Xizha has been reconstructed to reproduce the ancient appearance of the water town. Compared with Dongzha, Xizha is more bustling with numerous shops.

Wuzhen Dongzha still retains the life of the original inhabitants

From Xizha to Dongzha, we need to go out of the scenic spot, so we need to brush our face at the hotel, so that it is much more convenient to enter Xizha. There are many ways to get to Dongzha, we can drive, take a bus or take a taxi. We take a taxi back and forth for convenience.

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There is no light show in Dongzha at night, so the scenic spot management department suggests that the tourists return to Xizha to visit the night scene before Dongzha closes at 5 o’clock in the afternoon.

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The ancient Wuzhen is actually divided into four parts: Dongzha, Xizha, Nanzha, and Beizha. Dongzha and Xizha are planned to be built into the tourist areas.

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If you have enough time, you can also go to Nanzha or Beizha and see for yourself. It is said to be the quintessential Wuzhen. It is estimated that Nanzha and Beizha will be transformed into the tourist areas in the near future.

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Dongzha scenic area is large and the scenery is quiet and beautiful. our trip is about 2 kilometers. The scenic area consists of Dongzha Old Street, Guanqian Street, Riverside Water Pavilion, and Corridor. Standing in Dongzha, we are capable of feeling a strong flavor of jiangnan water town.

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Dongzha is so well-protected. The commercial atmosphere is not so heavy, and there are still a large number of indigenous residents living here.

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Jiangnan Woodcarving Exhibition Hall is originally the mansion of the Xu family in Dongzha, also known as Baihua Hall. It is famous for its exquisite woodcarvings. Today, the main hall and the side rooms display a wealth of ancient Chinese excellent woodcarving artworks.

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There is a great variety of woodcarvings. These woodcarvings themes are varied. There are folk legends such as “the Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea” and so on. There are scenes of daily life such as catch fish and cricket fighting. There are traditional designs such as dragon and phoenix rejoicing and plum orchid bamboo chrysanthemum. These woodcarving depict a unique characteristic of the folk custom in the South China area.

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The former residence of Mao Dun is located at 17 Guanqian Street, If we have time, we will come over to take a look.

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Hongyuan Thai dyeing house was founded in the Song and Yuan Dynasties. Hongyuan Thai’s former address was in Nanzha and was relocated to here during Guangxu’s reign in the Qing Dynasty. Here is blue calico production base and blue calico products distribution center.

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China’s blue calico is famous all over the world. Wuzhen is one of the place of origins of blue calico.

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There is also a dyeinghouse in Gubei Water Town, I feel it is copying Hongyuan Thai. I have seen the well-made fakes in Gubei Water Town, so there are not too many surprises here.

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If I compare Dongzha with Xizha I think Dongzha is more suited to the water town in my mind. But I have to say that night view of Xizha is very worth seeing. So when you come to Wuzhen, you must travel both Dongzha and Xizha, and leave with no regrets.

The essence of Wuzhen, the night scene of Xizha

We take a taxi from Dongzha to Xizha, the starting taxi fare is fine. Face-scanning and entering into the scenic area, we go back to the hotel to tidy up, and then come out to watch the night scene in Xizha.

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Here, tourist service center, sightseeing car, sightseeing boat, water bus, direct drinking water, natural gas, broadband network, satellite TV, electronic patrol, floodlighting, star toilet and intelligent parking lot are all available. As if a new pattern ancient town tourism and vacation community.

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Xizha consists of twelve small islands, which are connected by more than seventy small bridges. The density of rivers and the number of stone bridges are the highest among the ancient towns in the country.

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The lights begin to light up one after another at 5:30 a.m. around the National Day. The most beautiful moment in Wuzhen is coming.

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The old street is almost several of kilometres long, the flagstone walkway, and half of the house is on the water.

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The White Lotus Pagoda is located on the Huanhe Island at the riverside of the Grand Canal. The seven-storey White Lotus Pagoda is about 51 meters high, it is the tallest building in Wuzhen. There is an octagonal Shenglian Plaza under the pagoda. There is a free life pond in Shenglian Plaza. After the lights are on at night, seen from a distance in such weather, the pagoda seems so bright.

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Wuzhen has just finished the Internet Conference in the past few days. There are still many staff in the scenic area dismantling the conference amenities.

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There are also many tourists in Wuzhen at night, and many people choose to live here. Wuzhen offers various grades of accommodation and meet the needs of tourists. I book the Zhaoming Academy Inn on the official website. The Chinese style house is very tasteful.

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It takes about two hours to walk along the river. There are many restaurants and snackeries on the street. Because of the unified management, the taste and sanitary conditions are guaranteed.

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Back at the hotel, the waiter let us choose the form of breakfast tomorrow. The particularly interesting breakfast in Wuzhen is the breakfast bazaar. We can choose our favorite Wuzhen snacks, or we can choose the buffet breakfast provided by the hotel there. The breakfast bazaar has time requirements and the number of people restrictions, so it is better to notify the waiters earlier, and it is convenient for them to arrange.

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In the end we are afraid that we get up early to shoot at the cost of missing breakfast, so we choose to eat at the hotel. We rest early after washing up. We want to fly the drone as early as possible tomorrow.

Third day Wuzhen

I am ready to go out to sent the drone into the sky at 6 a.m, and want to take photo for Wuzhen from the air.

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Seen from the air, the riverways are crisscrossing.

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In the morning, Wuzhen has the soft beauty that Chinese Jiangnan (south of the Yangtze River) town should have.

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The drone is flown not too long ago, I am told that drones cannot be flown here. I must abide by the rules and take back my drone. Thus, I bring camera, go to photograph the early morning in the ancient town.

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Next to our accommodation is Zhaoming Academy. The academy is oriented south and north, two-storey ancient architectural complex. The main building is the library. Some ancient plaques collection and many works of calligraphy and painting are shown in the corridor inside the library.

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In the morning, the riverway is clean and elegant, only a few tourists are to be seen in the streets. It is quite comfortable to walk on the street.

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Shops on the street are not open for business, there are no commercialized alleys, now just the beauty in the morning sunshine is left.

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Life is like chocolate, we need patience to taste it.

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The cruise ship is ready to go to work in the early morning.

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When I turn back, the tourists start to go to the breakfast bazaar one after another from the inn closer to the river. I, too, am preparing to go back to the hotel for breakfast.

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Wuzhen is really good in everything, clean, tidy, no vendors shouts, well-behaved, and warm, only without some traces of life. I always think the deserted ancient town is soulless. But Wuzhen is not the same. Wuzhen gives me a feeling of a resort in ancient town’s clothing.

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The tree near the river has a lot of grapefruit-like fruit, I don’t know if it is grapefruit.

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There are more and more tourists and staff on the road.

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We can clearly hear the sound of the out-scull in Wuzhen in the morning. This rhythmic sculling sound makes people feel fantasy.

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Sometimes, Wuzhen’s slower pace of life is like the running water under the bridge. Only here is suitable to tell a literary story of years and love.

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Every year, Wuzhen Drama Festival is held here. Every autumn, old friends and new friends meet in Wuzhen.

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I go back to the hotel and eat a substantial buffet breakfast. I am ready to go out again and travel to a place I have never been to yesterday.

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There is a water theater on the southwest side of the ancient town, it has so much character.

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The main stage is nearly 7,000 square meters. There is a broken stone arch bridge in the lake, which is the highlight of the live-action theater. Behind the stage are the continuous ancient architectures of Ming and Qing Dynasties, with strong local characteristics.

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There are very few tourists here. Be like this advantageous to taking photo.

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There are lots of big and small teahouses scattered in the streets and alleys of Wuzhen. Different from other places, most of the teahouses in Wuzhen are located in the water pavilions, the river is on one side of the teahouses and the streets are on the other.

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We find a quieter teahouse, sit down and taste a pot of tea, and feel the taste of this rare water town.

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The current White Lotus Pagoda was relocated and rebuilt on Huanhe Island along the Xizha Grand Canal in 2005.

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The White Lotus Pagoda is seven storeys high and is the tallest building in Wuzhen. When you come to Wuzhen by boat from the canal, you will see the majestic appearance of the White Lotus Pagoda from a distance. So you know exactly that you are in Wuzhen.

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There is also a Cao Mu Natural Color Dye Workshop in Xizha. Open from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm.

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My personal feeling is that it is less beautiful than Hongyuan Thai dyeinghouse.

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The drifting cloths have a special feel to me.

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More and more tourists enter Wuzhen after 9 a.m. The quiet early morning is over.

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The cruise ships race along on the river.

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We pack our suitcases and ready to leave Wuzhen, looking forward to the next meeting.

Liu hong

Liu hong

a Freelance Travel Writer and Group Editor living in Beijing.

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