Wuzhen: The Ancient Chinese Water Town

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Located in the center of the six ancient water towns south of Yangtze River, in the Chinese province of Zhejiang, Wuzhen is the most beautiful with over thirteen hundred years of history displayed through its ancient stone bridges, stone pathways and delicate wood carvings. The town lies on the Hangzhou-Jiaxing-Huzhou Alluvial Plain on the banks of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, an elaborate waterway built and expanded over a thousand years to facilitate exchange of produced goods and culture between the northern and southern regions of eastern China, before the invention of railroads. The river and canals that crisscross across the town are flanked with ancient residential houses, workshops and shops, built on raised platforms of wood and stone pillars. Most of these riverside houses were built during the 14th century Ming dynasties.

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wuzhen was established in the late 9th century, although the first settlers here were the New Stone Age people, 7,000 years ago. Over more than 1,000 years, Wuzhen has never changed its name, water system or lifestyle. The traditional buildings, railings and arch bridges, arched gates across the street, imposing dwellings and spacious courtyards, river banks and verandas are all well preserved. Within the town, there are now more than 40 hectares of late 19th century buildings, and more than 100 ancient stone bridges of different shapes.

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. Tourists prefer to visit Dongzha and Xizha because they are relatively developed. Dongzha maintains the basic original layout while Xizha has been reconstructed to reproduce the ancient appearance of the water town. Xizha has few local residents and has instead given over to accommodation for tourists.

Wuzhen came recently in the limelight when it was chosen to host the World Internet Conference. The second edition of the conference will also be held here and is scheduled to begin on December 16.

Also see: The Water Town of Zhouzhuang

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Sources: China Travel / www.wtmlondon.com

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