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Travel Guide: Most Beautiful Water Towns in China

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  • Travel to China

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Riccardo

CTS Horizons is the UK's number one operator for China and beyond. We offer superb private journeys and tailor-made holidays to the world's most fascinating destinations!

This week we suggest you a small guide to some of the Best Chinese Water Towns. These fascinating villages are a perfectly preserved symbol of traditional China. Places where along with the town itself old traditional practices and manufacturing survive as if they were stuck in time as well.

China's ancient water towns are mostly (but not only) localised around the triangle constituted by Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou which are built on water themselves. These are the perfect place to escape the noise and overcrowding of Chinese massive metropolises. Tourists come here to experience tranquil and peaceful atmosphere while observing historic architectures, artisans using old techniques to produce tools, souvenirs or even cook, and especially to go on a romantic boat trip through the narrow yet fascinating canals. 
 
Spring and Autumn more gentle climate makes it easier to enjoy a stroll through these classic alleys. If it wasn't enough the facades of these small ancient Venice of the East transform at sunset when the gentler light reveals dreamlike colours that remain hidden at any other time of the day.
 
 
1. Zhujiajiao 朱家角
Zhujiajiao is situated in the Qingpu district in the western part of Shanghai, on the shores of the Dianshan Lake, which is adjacent to Zhejiang and Jiangsu, where Hangzhou and Suzhou respectively are located. It is 1700 years old and is characterised by broader canals, a number of stone bridges and many old buildings overlooking the waterways on both sides. Another main attraction worth visiting is the ancient Kezhi Garden.
 
2. Luzhi 甪直
Luzhi is located east of Suzhou, even older than Zhijiajiao and is considered one of the most beautiful water town in whole China. The trees accompanying the sidewalks on both sides of the canals banks and especially the picturesque weeping willows give Luzhi an even more relaxing appearance. This place boasts also many other attractions: The Baosheng Temple, with contains priceless statues dating back to the Tang Dynasty and the Xiao's Mansion, built during the Qing Dynasty to name a couple.
 
3. Wuzhen 乌镇
Within the triangle we mentioned, Wuzhen is the third important water town that is located in Zhejiang province instead, to the East of Hangzhou and one of the most famous in China. It is divided into districts and in each one different handicraft are performed with the original method making the experience even more immersive. It features some unique scenic spots such as the twin bridge and finally, despite part of the town being recently renewed, here as in other similar towns many buildings are original constructions still standing so that it's possible to appreciate its history.
 
4. Xitang 西塘
Located in Zhejiang province, Xitang is also very old, probably dating back to the Spring and Autumn or the Warring States Period. Xitang features a large number of old stone bridges and really unique buildings with characteristic porches along the river banks. Thanks to its particular beauty and charm (especially at night) it was even chosen as set for the movie Mission Impossible III. Among the various attractions, there are also the interesting Root Sculpture art gallery and an old Tea House.
 
 
5. Qiandeng 千灯
Qiandeng whose name has been changed in recent years literally means "A thousand Lights". Also located in Jiangsu province, close to Suzhou and bordering with the Qingpu district of Shanghai, it's in fact in the middle between the two cities. It has a long history and distinctive architecture with white houses and black tiles on the roofs recalling some features of the famous Hui architecture.  Its symbol is the ancient Qinfeng Tower built around 1500 years ago still standing in the centre, below is the precious Jad Buddha Hall. 
 
6. Taierzhuang 台儿庄
Remember though, not all these very peculiar towns are located in Suzhou-Hangzhou-Shanghai Triangle. In different provinces, you can find other exceptional and very different ones. One example is Taierzhuang situated in Shandong province. It is particularly renowned for having been the stage of a war against the Japanese army in 1938. The site of the battle is now recognised as a monument to the People's Republic of China. Taierzhuang features other fascinating attractions such as museums and traditional temples, and some traditional art performances like shadow puppetry shows are preserved as well. 
 
This list, of course, includes just a part of all the beautiful old towns built around waterways in China. Despite some being considered better, and regardless of personal taste, each one has its own unique style, and they all definitely worth visiting! Don't wait, because this will be one unforgettable experience!
CTS Horizons offers wonderful thematic tours to explore this side of China as in Water Towns & Gardens of China and can tailor-make new ones to include even more, contact us!
 

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