In the vicinity of Shanghai, you can find several canal towns, some of which are dubbed the Venice of the East. Getting there seemed as easy as getting to a bus station and catching a bus, but it was not. We ended up in a minivan with two Japanese girls and their Chinese guide, and within an hour, arrived at the entrance of Zhujiajiao. From here, it was a short walk over a street under repair before we reached Chenghuang bridge, a stone bridge with stairs leading pedestrians to the other side of the canal. This is one of the 36 bridges of Zhujiajiao, they are all built in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and add to the charm of this canal town. Unfortunately, the famous covered wooden bridge was closed for reconstruction.
Zhujiajiao was founded around 1700 years ago. Initially, it became wealthy through rice and cloth business, of which you can still find testimonies in town. Nowadays, however, it is mostly tourism that drives the canal town. The overall impression is that it is kept pretty well. While the bridges are old, so are the white houses, and, in fact, many inhabitants. Many inhabitants of Zhujiajiao seem to have a shop, as the main streets are full with them, selling anything from souvenirs to food. While walking through the lovely town, we did not only like the views, the canals, the bridges, especially on North or Ancient street, but definitely also the street scenes we came across: old Chinese people playing mahjong, chatting on the banks of the canal, teenagers making fun together. As is often the case, straying from the main tourist paths is certainly worthwhile, and took us to some attractive courtyards with laundry hanging to dry, and inhabitants tending their garden.
Probably the star attraction of Zhujiajiao is Fangsheng bridge, a high, stone bridge spanning the Chaogang river, with 5 arches allowing boats to pass underneath. More than just a bridge, Fangsheng is a meeting place for the locals, a place for street-vendors to try and sell their wares. We ended up buying some live fish in a plastic bag filled with water, and released them in the river below - this is supposed to bring good luck, and, after all, Fangsheng means "setting fish free bridge". Later on, we visited beautiful Kezhi garden. After going through an elaborate entrance hall, a much larger than anticipated garden opened up before our eyes, with wooden pavilions, artificial hill, bridges, a rice field, and of course the trees and plants in the garden itself. By the time we had seen the garden, it was time to go back, even though the weather had improved and the light was getting always more beautiful. We ended up sending the minivan with the Japanese girls off, and bought ourselves another hour in Zhujiajiao - and very happily so. We continued to walk the streets, exploring the southern side of the canal town this time, and discovered probably the most beautiful spots - or was it the favourable light? All I can say is: the ancient houses with the late afternoon light reflected into the still, green waters of the canals were just very picturesque. Was this the luck we got after releasing the fish into the river?
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Zhujiajiao Canal Town (China). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Zhujiajiao Canal Town.
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