With a history of over two millennia, Luzhi (甪直古镇) is one of the six ancient water towns in southeastern China most famous for their rich cultural traditions. It is located about 25 km south of Suzhou and is under the jurisdiction of Kunshan, a county administrated by Suzhou's municipal government in Jiangsu Province.
Known as the "capital of bridges," Luzhi has a crisscrossing network of rivers and streams and numerous bridges over blue waters. These antique bridges, along with other historical sites, old streets, heritage homes and 1,300-year-old ginkgo trees, speak of a glorious past.
The Baosheng Buddhist Temple in Luzhi is among the most well-known of its kind in southeastern China. It was built in the year 503 during the Liang Dynasty (502-557). The temple was in the first group of historical and cultural relics put under protection by the State Council. The clay images of nine arhats in the temple were sculpted by Yang Hui-zhi, a reputed artist in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The thousand-year-old statues remaining intact are considered national treasures.
At the south end of the ancient town, there is a heritage complex that used to be the site of Wansheng Rice Mill – the largest of its kind in southeastern China. The business was owned by two native families – the Shen and Fan families – in the early 20th century. The huge complex contained a rice shop in the front and a mill in the back. The hundred granaries enabled the company to store enormous amounts of rice, and it served as the grain collecting and distributing center for a dozen townships in the area.
In the one square kilometer of the township area, there used to be 72 and a half stone arch bridges built from the 10th to the 20th centuries. Of these, 41 still exist. The ancient bridges vary in size and shape. There are larger multi-arched ones, smaller single-arched ones, plate girder ones, scenic twin bridges, parallel "sister bridges" and makeshift ones. Five pairs of bridges were built where two streams meet, so they connect with each other and form 90°angles. Luzhi may be seen as a museum of antique bridges.
The seven ancient ginkgo trees, including four in Baosheng Temple proper, have become landmarks for Luzhi. The oldest among them, 1,300 years old, still has luxuriant foliage. Even three adults find it hard to get their arms around its huge trunk. The tree is 50 meters high.
The layout of the little town itself is interesting. Its nine main streets, paved either with cobblestone or granite, are lined with small shops. Almost all the town's buildings have front entrances facing the street or lanes and back walls by the water. The longest of the 58 lanes measures only 150 meters. The residential compounds may have three, five, six, or even row of houses in them. These buildings are commonly found with dark gray roof tiles, whitewashed patterned walls, as well as wooden doors and window frames. The ridges of the brick roofs have both ends curved up. A majority of the town's houses are between one and several hundred years old.
The way women in the area dress is full of rich local characteristics. A traditional fashion features coiled hair with a handkerchief around it, a cardigan and pants, a pleated short apron around the waist and embroidered shoes on the feet.
Many local women put their hair into a big bun and decorate it with fancy ornaments or a handkerchief. Today, ladies in Luzhi, especially middle-aged and older ones living in the western part of the area, still cherish such fashions.
- Through Ticket: 60 yuan (includes entrance to five sites)
- Boat sightseeing: 40 yuan per person
- Information: The Luzhi Tourism Development Co., Ltd. Tel: 0512- 6501 1925 Website: http://www.luzhi.com.cn
- How to get there:75 km from Shanghai and 28 km from Suzhou.
Tour buses leave from Shanghai's Yangpu Gym Center, Hongkou Soccer Stadium and Shanghai Stadium during holiday season. A round trip day ticket costs 120 yuan per person (includes entrance to sites).
Tour buses leave Suzhou Railway Station and Suzhou's North Bus Station between 6:30 to 18:00 (buses depart every half hour); 7 yuan.
The Luzhi Guesthouse and the Hongyun Garden Resort are popular choices, but there are also many other local hostels to choose from depending on budget and preferred type of accommodation.