Wu Zhen

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Wuzhen (乌镇) is a historic canal town south-west of Shanghai. Located in Tongxiang, Zhejiang Province, the traditional feel, style, features and structures of a typical town in this region of lakes and rivers have been well kept. The streets of Wuzhen run alongside rivers with bridges for intersections. Houses are built along the rivers, and they are typically imposing dwellings with spacious courtyards, overlapping roofs and high eaves. Other structures apart from houses run along the rivers, like docks, walkways, workshops, commercial buildings, and pavilions, some on the water. The town presents a picture of primitive simplicity, brightness, orderliness, peace and seclusion.

Wuzhen is characterized by its unique layout. It has a residential area, traditional workshop area, culture area, dining area, shopping area, and even a scenery area that features local traditions and customs.

Starting Nov. 19, 2014, the town became the permanent place to host "World Internet Conference."

Tourist attractions

Traditional Residential Area

The old streets here are paved with bluestones and wooden houses run along on both sides. The simple yet elegant architecture has been retained. Points of interest in this area include the Hundred Bed Museum, Woodcarvings Exhibition Hall, Family and Folkway Museum, Fangluge Teahouse, and the Huiyuan Pawn.

Traditional Workshop Area

The workshops in this area show off Wuzhen's more popular folk arts and crafts like printing and dyeing, silk floss making, bamboo crafts, pastry making and cut tobacco making. Wuzhen is famous for its red sun-cured cut tobacco. Visitors can actually participate in the making process. Some of the interesting workshops housed in this area include Rice Wine Workshop, Blue Print Workshop, Cloth Shoes Workshop, Rattan Workshop, Bamboo Workshop, Hooper's Workshop, Silk Floss Workshop, Bamboo Arts and Crafts Studio, Tobacco Workshop, Wooden Arts and Crafts Studio, and the Bakery.

Traditional Culture Area

Visitors get an inside look into Wuzhen's culture that has stood the test of time when they walk through the Former Residence of Mao Dun – a famous Chinese writer – the Lizhi Academy of Classic Learning, Lin' Shop, Xiuzhen Temple, the Stage, Shadow Playhouse, and Yu Liuliang's Coins Museum.

The Former Residence of Mao Dun, whose real name was Shen Yanbing (1896 – 1981) is also the house of the Shen ancestors. It was built in the middle of the 19th century in the style of the Qing Dynasty and typical of folk houses south of the Yangtze River. In this residence are a study designed and renovated by Mao Dun himself, and pelargonium and palm trees that he planted.

Shadow Play, a type of puppetry, was introduced to Wuzhen during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). By the late 1930s and early 1940s, 12 Shadow Play Troupes were frequently performing in towns and villages. Today, there is a performance every day at Shadow Playhouse. The shadow puppets are made of ox or goat skin. The exquisite semi-transparent figures are made and painted by hand. Their joints are linked by thread for maximum movement. Puppeteers move their puppets to music played on traditional instruments such as the drum, gong, erhu (two-stringed Chinese fiddle), jinghu (a two-stringed bowed instrument with a high register, used mainly to accompany Beijing opera singing), suona horn and bamboo flute.

Traditional Dining Area

Food is another major attraction in Wuzhen. Wuzhen-ites know how to dine. Some of the town's more famous dishes include the "Three Treasure Chicken with Soy Source", "Wuzhen Lamb", "Steamed Pork in Lotus Leaves", and "Dingsheng Pastry". And it isn't just the old-style restaurants that are a draw. Wuzhen's teahouses, too, are representative of daily life in the town. The visitor would want to know that chrysanthemum tea is not only tasty and refreshing, but also great for the skin.

Traditional Shopping Area

The shopping area is where visitors can pick up their souvenirs and books on Wuzhen as well as local products like San Bai Wine, Hangbai Chrysanthemum Tea, Gusao Pastry, and Blue Print.

Water Town Area

The Water Town Area is on the other side of the river, separated from the others. This part boasts wharfs, pavilions and riverside walkways.

Folk customs

Wuzhen Town God Fair

There is almost a local fair every month in the Tongxiang area, e.g. the January Lantern Fair, March Temple Fair, April Young Crops Fair, May General Wen Fair, July Town God Fair, and so on. Among those fairs, the Town God Fair is the busiest.

Greeting Five Gods

Traditionally, this is a ceremony to greet the five gods that guard the five directions – east, south, west, north and the center – on a road. Later, it became a ceremony greeting the five gods of fortune. In the old days, businesses would perform a ceremony on the fourth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year to worship the five gods, and then re-open for business the next day in the hope of receiving good luck and good fortune.

Market for Buddhist Pilgrims

This is a long-standing custom in Wuzhen. The size of this market is second only to the West Lake Market in Hangzhou. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, there were many Buddhist temples in Wuzhen, and therefore pilgrims. Street peddlers and theatrical troupes followed and it was they who created the market.

Tea Drinking

People in Wuzhen like their drink – tea, that is. In days gone by, the town used to have as many as sixty teahouses. Patrons were mostly farmers from nearby villages. Teahouses were an important place for socializing, where information was shared and public affairs processed.

Useful information

Through ticket: 60 yuan

Tricycle sightseeing: The starting price is 3 yuan; 15 yuan for a trip around the whole town

Information: Wuzhen Tourism Development Co., Ltd. Tel: 0573-871 3991, 871 1223 Website: http://www.wuzhen.com.cn/oldweb/wuzhen.eng/

How to get there:

From Shanghai: On weekends and public holidays, special-line buses to Wuzhen set off at 8:00 from Hongkou Soccer Stadium. Others set off at 7:50 and 8:45 from Shanghai Gymnasium. Buses back to Shanghai leave Wuzhen at 16:30.

140 yuan (includes entrance fees)

On normal days, a bus departs the long- distance bus station on Hutai Road at 12:35 to Wuzhen.

25 yuan; approx. 2.5 hours

Driving there: Drive along the Huhang (from Shanghai to Hangzhou) Highway, take the Tudian exit, turn right to get to Wuzhen via the Tongxiang downtown area. Approx. 2 hours.

From Jiaxing:

Buses from Jiaxing western bus station set off at 7:20, 9:50, 13:40, 14:10, 14:30 and 16:45 every day.

Alternatively, take a bus to Tongxiang (every 5 minutes from 6:30 to 17:30, approx. 35 minutes, 5.7 yuan), then hop onto a bus headed to Wuzhen (every 7 minutes from 6:00 to 17:00, approx. 20 minutes and 4 yuan).

A taxi from Jiaxing directly to Wuzhen would cost about 70 yuan.

From Hangzhou:

Take the fast bus to Tongxiang from Hangzhou east bus station (every half an hour from 6:30 to 17:30, approx. 1 hour, 15-17 yuan), then transfer to the smaller bus to Wuzhen.

There is a "Zhejiang fast bus" that goes direct to Wuzhen from Hangzhou (approx. 1 hour and 20 minutes, 20 yuan; The last bus back to Hangzhou leaves at 5: 30 p.m.).

Hotels: The Midnight Grand Hotel is the largest two-star hotel in Wuzhen. Youngster's Hotel is currently under construction. Visitors can also choose from many guesthouses and lodges.