Zhouzhuang Travel Tips
Despite its small size (only 20,000 inhabitants), Zhouzhuang observes a fair share of annual festivals, the most popular being the Fast-Boat Race and the Lantern Rowing Ceremony. Note that the Fast-Boat Race ceremony developed into a wedding ceremony as well, i.e., couples planning a wedding would stage it to coincide with the annual Fast-Boat Race of late fall, which also served as a sort of harvest festival corresponding to the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. or similar, age-old harvest festivals in Europe.
The Fast-Boat Race began in Zhuzhuang in the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. After centuries of gradual development – where, as indicated, the festival merged with the harvest festival and the annual marriage festival – Fast-Boat racing has become a large scale entertainment event in Zhouzhuang. Local farmers themselves prepare the boats, the clothes, the "tools" (oars, etc.) and the drums and gongs. Each boat is equipped with one long punt pole (think of the push-pole of a gondola, but longer), one large oar and one small oar, a drum and a gong.
One member of the 15-man team beats the drum while another strikes a gong. One person mans the small oar in front while another person mans the large oar (think of a rudder) in the rear, and the rest push the boat forward with the help of the long – very long – punt pole. The Fast-Boat Race is a very competitive event, with the crowd cheering the teams on, but all in a spirit of fairness, as in "may the best team win".
Lantern Rowing Ceremony
Lantern rowing in Zhouzhuang is so famous that countless visitors come to watch the event every year. It originated during the Qing Dynasty as part of Emperor Qianlong's annual "Southern Tour" (aka annual Southern Inspection Tour of the realm), which gradually developed into a local entertainment event wherever the emperor and his entourage made their appearance. This event takes place every three to five years, depending on local capacity. This spectacular ceremony is made up of dozens of boats of various sizes, outfitted with colored lanterns, and with the boats constantly changing formation in keeping with the dictates of the music.
Sometimes the formation looks like a long snake, or dragon, while at other times it looks like two dragons contesting a pearl. The whole scene is ever-changing, reminiscent of the complex choreography of a skilled, marching band, which is all the more impressive given that the Lantern Rowing Ceremony takes place on water. The glistening reflections of the colorful lanterns dancing on the waves adds a special dimension, which has given the Lantern Rowing Ceremony the reputation of being "The Best Lantern Activity in All of South China".
Zhouzhuang is a beautiful, picturesque village of willow-lined canals that are contiguous with rows of waterside buildings with whitewashed walls and gray slate roofs, and whose wooden eaves are upturned in the quintessentially Chinese fashion. » more
Zhouzhuang has a long tea drinking history, as indicated above, but the city likes its pastries as well as its more substantial dishes, such as those made with pork, traditionally the most popular meat in China.» more
There are direct buses from Shanghai, Suzhou, Kunshan or Qingpu to Zhouzhuang. You can take a bus or a train from Shanghai to Suzhou, then take one of the Suzhou-Zhouzhuang options. » more
If you have time for it, spending a night in Zhouzhuang is an excellent idea, as it will give you more time to see the sights at a more leisurely pace, especially the sites where the tourist traffic can be considerable as the day progresses.» more
Day 1: After having checked in at your choice of lodging, stroll/ rickshaw about town to get your bearings, and make note of the layout of the village. » more
Despite its small size, Zhouzhuang observes a fair share of annual festivals, the most popular being the Fast-Boat Race and the Lantern Rowing Ceremony. » more