A day trip
16.11.2007 - 16.11.2007 18 °C
We booked a day trip through "Le Tour" hostel, where we stayed on our arrival to Shanghai. Early in the morning our "guide" came to pick us up. He only spoke a few words of English (like Hello) which was much more than what the driver knew. We went in a pretty worn down van and on the way, (actually totally in the opposite direction but anyway), we picked up an old Chinese couple who were also going.
They say that to visit Zhou Zhuang is to visit historical China. It's a tiny town with about 4000 inhabitants located between Shanghai and Suzhou, in an area with abundant rivers and lakes. There are several towns with canals in China but this one is today definitely one of the most famous. This ancient town has a history of more than 900 years with many houses built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
There are nearly a hundred well-preserved old mansions and over 60 gateways made of carved bricks built during the Ming or Qing dynasty. The mansions were named after owners ' surnames, such as "Zhang", "Zhou" or "Shen". The great mansion is "Shen-Ting" (Hall of Sheng) and was built in 1742 by the descendants of Shen Wan-Shan, the wealthiest person in the area under the Ming dynasty. The two-story mansion has more than 100 rooms and is an extreme example of how the rich lived during feudal China. The house has also been used as the set for several Chinese movies.
The other is the Zhang-Ting (Hall of Zhang) residence, which was built later during the Ming Dynasty. It is one of the few well preserved mansions in China and the oldest one in the city. Whereas the other houses in Zhou Zhuang are built along the streams and rivers, the Ruojing River actually runs through Zhang-Ting so that small boats can enter the house through its backyard.
We took it pretty easy, strolling around just soaking it in. We had rented audio guides just to have some information as our guide wasn't going to be of any use.
There's a gondola service for tourists to take the city in from another perspective and get a quick tour of probably the most famous attractions, the 14 stone bridges built during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The Double Bridge being the most visited one. The Double Bridge, two bridges positioned so they form a right angle over a canal, was first built during the Wanli Reign (1573-1619). The other noteworthy bridge is Fu'an Bridge, which supposed to be the oldest bridge in the City having been built in 1355. You pay for the whole boat so we shared our gondola with some other people. It was over in about 30 minutes but it was very nice.
Apparently Zhou Zhuang is now solely dependent on tourism (great shame, I've even heard a lot of locals don't even live there anymore!) though the day we chose to go was perfect, as it was relatively tourist free throughout the day.
The local specialty dish here is pork knuckle, a rather gruesome lump of pork knuckly meat covered in fat. We ate together with the old couple and they helped us to order. Conversation was scarce but they were so friendly.
After we had eaten lunch and then strolled around the narrow shopping streets for a while, we went to the outdoor stage to wait to be picked up. We watched a little Beijing Opera, without understanding too much of the story, and were then picked up by the driver.
It was an interesting drive back. The countryside, if you can call it that just outside Shanghai, doesn't get boring to watch. There was quite a lot of traffic but we got back fairly quickly anyway.
Bye for now!
Fredrik and Sabrina