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Wuzhen: The Ancient Chinese Water Town with a history of more than 7,000 years

David Goran

Wuzhen is one of the six famous ancient water towns south of the Yangtze River, located in northern Zhejiang Province, China. It’s within the triangle formed by three top tourist cities: Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou. Covering an area of 71.19 km2 (27.49 sq mi), Wuzhen has a total population of 60,000, of which 12,000 are permanent residents.

Wuzhen Town. By Nablazzz/CC BY-SA 3.0

Wuzhen Town. By Nablazzz/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

located in Tongxiang of Zhejiang Province, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Hangzhou, and 140 kilometers (87 miles) from Shanghai. By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

located in Tongxiang of Zhejiang Province, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Hangzhou, and 140 kilometers (87 miles) from Shanghai. By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Waterfront houses. By Immanuel Giel/CC BY-SA 4.0.

Waterfront houses. By Immanuel Giel/CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

Most of the buildings were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912). By Loris Silvio Zecchinato/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Most of the buildings were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912). By Loris Silvio Zecchinato/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

It perfectly maintains the former styles and features of ancient water towns. The town displays its history through its ancient stone bridges, stone pathways, and delicate wood carvings. The famous Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal runs through the town, which endows Wuzhen Water Town with rivers and canals crisscrossing the whole area. The numerous canals that run across Wuzhen divide the town into four scenic sections, which are respectively called as Dongzha, Nanzha, Xizha, and Beizha by the locals. The canal was built over a thousand years to facilitate exchange of produced goods and culture between the northern and southern regions of eastern China, long before the invention of railroads.

Buildings in the town. By Nablazzz/CC BY-SA 3.0

Buildings in the town. By Nablazzz/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Tradition is still very much alive in Wuzhen. 1- By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0 2- By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Tradition is still very much alive in Wuzhen. 1- By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0 2- By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

 

The canals of Wuzhen have led to it being nicknamed the “Venice of the East“

The canals of Wuzhen have led to it being nicknamed the “Venice of the East“. By Immanuel Giel/CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Traditional boats. By 韩笃/CC BY-SA 3.0

Traditional boats. By 韩笃/CC BY-SA 3.0

Especially noted for its history and culture, Wuzhen was established in the late 9th century, although the first settlers here were the New Stone Age people, 7,000 years ago. According to historical records, Xinchun Village in the East Village district of Wuzhen has relics from the Neolithic Period, belonging to the Majiabin civilization.

Over more than 1,000 years, Wuzhen has never changed its name, water system or lifestyle. llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Over more than 1,000 years, Wuzhen has never changed its name, water system or lifestyle. By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

 

It has charmingly restored architecture and canals. llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

It has charmingly restored architecture and canals. By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Some of the houses beside the river are built on pillars to lift them above the surface of the waterway. By Jim Bowen/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Some of the houses beside the river are built on pillars to lift them above the surface of the waterway. By Jim Bowen/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

For hundreds of years, its residents have been building houses along the rivers and trading near the bridges, the ancient docks and waterside pavilions. One of the main attractions for the visitors is the “Bridge within a Bridge”, created by two ancient bridges, the Tongji Bridge which crosses the river from east to west and the Renji Bridge running from south to north that joins the former at one end.

The bridge is designed to evoke the full moon. These bridges look especially beautiful on a full moon, when the moon is reflected in the water underneath the bridge. By Carsten Ullrich/CC BY-SA 2.0

The bridge is designed to evoke the full moon. These bridges look especially beautiful on a full moon when the moon is reflected in the water underneath the bridge. By Carsten Ullrich/CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1991, Wuzhen was authorized as the Provincial Ancient Town of History and Culture. By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

In 1991, Wuzhen was authorized as the Provincial Ancient Town of History and Culture. By llee_wu/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Riverside sculptures with the characters “Wuzhen“ in the background. By Fanghong/CC BY-SA 3.0

Riverside sculptures with the characters “Wuzhen“ in the background. By Fanghong/CC BY-SA 3.0

Another interesting fact is that on November 19, 2014, the World Internet Conference has been held in Wuzhen. Since then, the town has become the permanent venue of this summit.