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Wuzhen Ancient Town

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Wuzhen Ancient Town Overview 
Wuzhen lies at the north of Tongxiang City of Zhejiang Province, China, and at the center of the triangle formed by Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing, positioning at the east longitude of 120°29’ and north latitude of 30°44’. The town covers an area of 71.19km2, with a total population of 60,000 and permanent residents of 12,000. The town is divided into four zones by a cross-shaped river, with the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal running across the town, making it the only ancient water town adjacent to the canal. The town lies on the Hangzhou-Jiaxing-Huzhou Alluvial Plain, with no hills but interlaced rivers. Due to its warm and humid climate, and abundant rainfalls and sunshine, the products here are rich, making Wuzhen well-known as “the town of fish, rice, and silk”.

Chinese people say that unless you visit the Great Wall then you haven't been to China. For any visit south of the Yangtze River; one place not to be missed is the town of Wuzhen.

Wuzhen displays its two-thousand-year history in its ancient stone bridges floating on mild water, its stone pathways between the mottled walls and its delicate wood carvings. Also, setting it apart from other towns, it gives a unique experience through its profound cultural background.

It is said that people have lived in Wuzhen for 7000 years and over time it has produced a galaxy of talents. Mao Dun, an outstanding modern Chinese writer, was born here and his masterpiece, 'The Lin's Shop', describes vividly the life of Wuzhen. In 1991, Wuzhen was authorized as the Provincial Ancient Town of History and Culture, so ranking first among the six ancient towns south of the Yangtze River.

Two Areas at Wuzhen 
Dong Zha (the East Sector) is basically one waterway, about 400 meters long sandwiched between two streets of original Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) houses. The street on the entrance side has souvenir shops and restaurants and the street on the far side has various museums exhibiting beds, clothes, blue flower printed fabric, etc. There are various exhibitions showing the old way of life in this water town. In the peak season the streets are thronged with Chinese tourists (few foreigners) and the waterway is busy with single-oar skiffs carrying up to six passengers up and down the waterway. Despite being given over to tourism Dong Zha is still inhabited by the original residents who go about their lives among the tourists. Dong Zha 's uniqueness lies in its layout, being 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) long and divided into six districts. These are: Traditional Workshops District, Traditional Local-Styled Dwelling Houses District, Traditional Culture District, Traditional Food and Beverage District, Traditional Shops and Stores District, and Water Township Customs and Life District. Wandering along the east-west-east circuit created by these six districts, you will enjoy the atmosphere of the traditional cultures and the original ancient features of the town that have been preserved intact.

The author found Xi Zha (the West Sector of Wuzhen) a much better experience than that of Dong Zha, and believes most non-Chinese visitors will find Dong Zha interesting, but Xi Zha positively charming. Xi Zha is quieter (during the day) and is more spacious. There is a marsh with a firefly aviary and wooden water-drawing system, and a sizable pagoda at one end by the Beijing Hangzhou Grand Canal. It is similar in layout to Dong Zha with a main waterway and streets either side, but larger at 1000 meters long, with a good number of side alleys, bridges, ancient docks and secondary waterways, which makes it a fascinating place to stroll around. Xi Zha has been rebuilt and renovated in the original style (it is still being constructed (August 2009) in the western corner), with many charming architectural features: colonnades, small bridges, balconies, piers, wooden windows and doors, and gray stone walls and paving. Xi Zha has few local residents and is instead given over to accommodation for visitors. There are three main accommodation providers. The largest and cheapest is Min Su (Wuzhen Guest House), with antique style wooden furnishings and all the modern conveniences including internet access and satellite TV.

To enter Xi Zha visitors need to take a short single-oar ferry ride across a man-made lake. The streets of Xi Zha are lined with guest houses, restaurants, bars and souvenir and arts and crafts shops. Xi Zha has a similar feel to West Street of Yangshuo (the backpackers mecca and highly-developed tourist town in Guilin, South China), but it is less crowded and hasn’t really been discovered yet. Xi Zha has the potential to become East China’s Xi Jie (West Street).
The karaoke and bars at both ends of the waterway are noisy during the evening, though still little frequented, but the middle of Xi Zha is peaceful. Xi Zha is beautifully lit at night, subtly highlighting various architectural features and the bridges. There is a silent flow of skiffs making night cruises on the main waterway. Xi Zha is well-constructed, tastefully decorated and well-kept. The streets are immaculately clean and even the eaves of the buildings are given a dusting in the mornings. Xi Zha is pleasing to the eye and draws one in - into a forgotten time in China when waterways were used like road and rail, and life was simpler. This resort combines new and old really well.

Wuzhen Attractions

Former Residence of Mao Dun
Originally built in the central 19th century covering a total area of 650 square meters (7020 sq. ft), the former residence of Mao Dun, a well-known Chinese revolutionary writer, was the Mao family home for many generations and witnessed the growth of this great revolutionist and writer. In 1984, the former residence of Mao Dun was renovated and extended to cover a total area of 1,731.5 square meters (18,700 sq. ft) - it opened to the public one year later. In 1988, it was listed as one of the Key State Preserved Relic Units and in 1994 was renamed the Mao Dun Museum of the City of Tongxiang. The house has three exhibition areas: 'Wuzhen, the Hometown of Mao Dun', 'the Way of Mao Dun', and 'the Former Residence of Mao Dun (renovated)'. The present Mao Dun Museum can be found to the east of the residence, which used to be Lizhi Shuyuan (Aspiration Academy) where Mao Dun spent his early school years.
Xiuzhen Guan
Xiuzhen Guan is a Taoist temple which was built in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). It is one of three famous Taoist temples on the south bank of the Yangtze River.
Xiuzhen Guan Stage
The stage was built in 1749. In ancient times, farmers around the town came by boat to watch plays. While the play was going on, the spectators would be in boats floating on the waterway. 
Roofed Corridor
A 1000-meter long roofed corridor runs along the bank of the river, which is one of the key architectural features of water towns south of the Yangtze。
Local Housing
The architectural style is from the Qing Dynasty and reflects the traditional lifestyle of the people.
Aged Ginkgo Tree
A ginkgo tree over 1000 years old has witnessed the town's history since the Song Dynasty. Formerly located in the courtyard of General Wu Temple along the river's south bank, its trunk takes three men with their arms outstretched to circle it.

What to Eat and Drink at Wuzhen 
Delectable seafood is, of course, a staple of this water town. Local favorites such as steamed fish shouldn’t be missed; but non-seafood dishes are also popular, like the braised mutton. 

For dessert, try the Gusao Cake which is as delicious in its presentation as it is to eat, served in a traditional red lacquered box. 

Sanbai wine, a liquor distilled from rice or sorghum, is still made by hand in old-fashioned distilleries using the same methods that have been employed for centuries. 

Take a tour of the Sanbai Wine Workshop to watch the men cooking the liquor over wood fires and distilling them into old oak barrels. Dozens of pottery casks of the finished product are lined up in the courtyard and the thick, strong smell permeates the air – and you are invited to taste or buy for yourself. 

Also try the delectable Chrysanthemum Tea that is a specialty of the region.

Wuzhen has plenty of night life, as well. Visit Chashi Jie for lively cafes and bars, as well as spa treatments and traditional salt baths available until late, to enjoy your leisure time. For entertainment, take in a show on the ancient Xiuzhenguan Square stage, or the Xizha stage that floats on the water.

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Information
CNY 100 for Dongzha Scenic Area
CNY 120 for Xizha Scenic Area
CNY 150 for Combination Ticket

Excluding the boat ticket:
CNY 80 (for 8 people) in Dongzha
CNY120 (day), CNY 150 (night) in Xizha for 6 people

- Opening Time:
Dongzha Scenic Area: 08:30~17:30
Xizha Scenic Area: 08:00-22:00 

Transportation
1. On Saturdays and Sundays and during the festival times: at Hongkou Football Field 8 a.m., Shanghai Stadium 7:50 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., direct buses are offered with 100 yuan/ per person(return at 4:30 p.m. from Wuzhen) involving a round-trip ticket and admissions to the sightseeing spot. 

2. At Shanghai Long-distance Bus Station on the Hutai Road, a dialy bus starts at 12:35 p.m. to Wuzhen with the price to be 25.1 yuan.

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