Zhouzhuang Water Town
Zhouzhuang is a famous ancient town in the south of the Yangtze River of China. Located in the southeast of Suzhou City, the town is a peaceful and secluded place, filled with ancient style buildings. Zhouzhuang is a popular tourist destination. It is one of the most famous water townships in China, noted for its profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses, the elegant watery views and the strong local colored traditions and customs. It has been called the "Venice of the East".
Rivers crisscross in the town of Zhouzhuang, where buildings and streets are constructed along the rivers. Over 60% of the buildings across the town were built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In the tiny 0.47-sq.kilometer ancient town, there are close to one hundred classical houses and over 60 brick carving gate towers. The most representative building is Shen's House, which is a courtyard house with the Qing Dynasty styles. The overall structure of the house is in neat formation, with different styles in various parts. While the most striking feature of Zhang’s House is the small river streaming through the courtyard, where there’s a pond covering over three square meters for unloading ships.
There are a total of 14 ancient bridges built in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties over the rivers in the town. The most famous scenic spots include: Fu’an Bridge, which is the only existing three dimensional structure integrating a bridge and a tower in the south of the Yangtze River; the Twin Bridge, which is a uniquely structured “two-in-one” bridge; and religious sites like Chengxu Taoist Temple and Quanfu Teaching Temple etc.
One of the most well-known people of Zhouzhuang was Shen Wansan, the richest man in the south of the Yangtze River during the early years of the Ming Dynasty. He conducted trade by capitalizing on the convenient waterway transportation in Zhouzhuang. The place thus became a flourishing town in the south of the Yangtze River at that time as well as a distributing centre of grain, silk, porcelain wares and handicrafts.
Special local snacks of Zhouzhuang include Wansan cake, pickled cucumber, mini-shrimp, three-flavor meatballs, perch in water shield soup etc. The dishes with the strongest local flavor are pig's shank and feet, which are originated from Shen Wansan’s family. Locally called “Wansan Pig Shank” and “Wansan Pig Feet”, they were indispensable dishes the Shen’s prepared to entertain distinguished guests.
Zhouzhuang has been included in the UNESCO Tentative List for World Cultural Heritage Sites. In addition, it’s been awarded a lot of distinctions like Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation, American Government Award and the title of “the world’s most charming water town” etc.