Zhouzhuang is one of the most famous "water town" in China, situated between Lake Tai and Shanghai, about 55 kilometers southeast of Suzhou on the southern shore of Lake Baixian, through which the Baixian River runs. Zhouzhuang is surrounded by lakes and rivers on all sides and crisscrossed by a network of canals that connect to the rivers and lakes. The beauty of Zhouzhuang is specially to be found along the water lanes, the whitewashed two-story houses with black tiles that flank the waterways and around a number of the stone bridges.
Zhouzhuang’s most famous attractions are its 14 bridges built during Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The Double Bridge (or Twin bridge) is the most iconic one and considered the symbol of Zhouzhuang. It consist of two bridges positioned so they form a right angle over a stream, and was first built during the Wanli Reign (1573-1619). The other noteworthy bridge is Fu'an Bridge, which holds the distinction of being the oldest bridge in Zhouzhuang having been built in 1355.
Zhouzhuang has about a thousand households, 60% of which were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and these houses are well preserved. Two buildings in particular attract a lot of visitors.
One is the Shen Ting (Hall of Shen) residence. Built in 1742 and located at the southeast side of Fuan Bridge, Shen House was the private property of the descendant of Shen Wansan, a millionaire of in the early Ming Dynasty. The two-story mansion has more than 100 rooms and occupies 2,000 square meters (half an acre). The house has three sections. The first section includes the water gate and wharf for mooring boats and washing. The second section consists of the Tea Hall and Main Hall for receiving guests and holding weddings or funerals. The rear part serves as living quarters.
The other is the Zhang Ting (Hall of Zhang) residence, built during the Ming Dynasty. Covering more than 1800 square meters, the house has 6 courtyards and more than 70 rooms. The Ruojing River actually runs through Zhang Ting so that small boats can enter the house through its backyard.
Zhouzhuang is a small town and can easily be covered in one day by gondola, rickshaw, or by foot. There is no motorized traffic at all in the town of Zhouzhang.
Twin bridge. Photo credit
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