Jiangsu Zhouzhuang (Zhou Village), China

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Zhouzhuang (Zhou Village)

Zhouzhuang (Zhou Village), a 900-year-old village in Jiangsu Province, is about two hours drive from Shanghai.

This land of peace is like a water color painting, is like a clear gentle wind, Zhouzhuang offers one the feeling of entering the "time machine" leading the visitors totally away from the modern society.

As soon as stepping into Zhouzhuang, you will find many simple structures scattering in a peaceful environment. Although more than 900 years had past, its architectural style is still well preserved.

More than 50 percent of the residential houses were built during the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties (1368-1911A.D.), consists of nearly 100 classic courtyards and 60 carved brick archways.

Shen Hall and Zhang Hall are the most famous buildings in Zhouzhuang. Two persons whose surnames were "Shen" and "Zhang" built them in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties. The hall is spacious, and the columns are thick and strong. The back wall is a river revetment.

In addition to the simple life style, they not only make Zhouzhuang unique but also bring it the reputation of "The First Water Village in South China".

Overlooked from a higher ground, Zhouzhuang is coincidentally surrounded by lakes. Waterway interlocks freely in the village and bridges become the medium of streets. What worth of mentioning are several ancient bridges, on which tourists often cannot help walking repeatedly. Ten ancient bridges have been well preserved.

No matter big or small, round or straight, all of them are classic and refined.

"Double Bridges" are the most typical. Built in Ming Dynasty, the stone bridges are strong and simple. Stretching over Nanshi River and Yinzibang River, they are bridges made of stone arch and stone beam. The bridge opening one is round, and one is square. One bridge floor is horizontal, and the other is erected. It seems like two little rivers are locked tightly by a huge lock.

Compared with bright-colored big modern cities, Zhouzhuang is simple and elegant. Roaming in the streets or standing on the bridges, you will find all corner of Zhouzhuang are natural and beautiful.

A popular female writer from Taiwan visited here before she died. She said she had found the true meaning of travel in Zhouzhuang. Besides, a famous Russian artist who once visited here thought of Zhouzhuang as "Oriental Venice".

The streets of Zhouzhuang are very narrow. It can only hold 5 to 6 people standing side by side. There are many timber handcraft shops. Wooden bowls, chopsticks, straw sandals, genuine or antiques and refined watercolors depicting the scenery of south China.

Most constructions in Zhouzhuang were built along the river, and most of them are in a style that the front entrance wall is facing the street and the back wall facing the river.

One of the reasons this small water town Zhouzhuang became a well-known scenic spot, is due to an oil painting named "Hometown in My Memory". Painted by Chen Yifei - a modern artist, the oil painting was modeled on Double Bridges in Zhouzhuang. It was bought by Mr. Harmor-the petroleum magnate and then presented to the contemporary Chinese chairman Deng Xiaoping.

Since then, this little town was never the same, tourists from the all over the world rush into Zhouzhuang, hurry, come to Zhouzhuang before it lost its former peacefulness.