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Top Ancient Towns in China

A lot of ancient towns pop-up to people's new travel plans, and have been great destinations to enjoy a quiet and peaceful journey. You can enjoy not only beautiful natural scenery, but also experience original local culture. Are you excited to explore unique Naxi and Dongba cultures in Yunnan Province or wander in Chinese water towns in Jiangsu Province? Here we choose the best ancient towns in China to help you to experience your own unforgettable journeys.

Top Ancient Towns in China

Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang Ancient Town, also known as Dayan Ancient Town, is a large scale plateau town. Firstly built in the Southern Song Dynasty, it has about an 800 years history. You can see pure Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from Lijiang Ancient Town, and explore some ethnic minorities' unique culture and life such as Naxi culture and Mosuo matrilineal culture. A lot of travelers are attracted by Mosuo people' walking marriages in the ancient town.

Lijiang Ancient Town was a key town on the historic Ancient Tea Route. It played an irreplaceable role to transfer goods to Tibet, Shangri-la and India in ancient times. In addition, you can enjoy a vivid night life in Lijiang such as bars, KTV and night market.

Nearby attractions: Lashi Lake, the Black Dragon Pool, the Ancient Mural Paintings in Baisha Village

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Fenghuang Ancient Town

Fenghuang Ancient Town

Located in the northwest Hunan Province, Fenghuang Ancient Town is built along the clear Tuo River. Constructed in Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, it can make you far away from bustling and noisy modern cities. It is famous Chinese writer Shen Congwen's hometown, and is vividly described in his book the Border Town.

You can experience Miao and Tujia people's warm treat, and enjoy special house construction art. The Hong Bridge cross the Tuo River is the symbol of Fenghuang Ancient Town. You can try some tasty and chilly local dishes there. The town in the morning is a great picture to photography. And to take a boat floating on the Tuo River is the best way to see the ancient town.

Nearby attractions: Zhangjiajie and Mount Fanjing in Guizhou

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Dali Ancient Town

Dali Ancient Town

To escape from a hot summer, Dali Ancient Town has been loved by more and more travelers. Dali Ancient Town was the capitals of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms in ancient times. The ancient constructions were built in 1382 during the Ming Dynasty, and still kept square grid layout of the Ming and Qing Dynasty.

The Foreigner Street in Dali has dozens of English-speaking Western restaurants, coffee bars and shops. Dali Ancient Town is filled with tie dye products, colorful jade stones. Local Bai people' food and culture is another highlight in the town.

Nearby attractions: Cangshan Mountains, Erhai Lake, the Butterfly Spring

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Tongli Ancient Town

Tongli Ancient Town

Tongli Ancient Town is one of top 6 water town in Jiangnan areas (the lower reaches of the Yangtze River). Built in the Song Dynasty, Tongli Ancient Town is a water town with a more than 1000 years history. A larger number of photographers, painters and travelers head to Tongli Ancient Town because of its beautiful sceneries.

15 streams join in the town which is a beautiful picture of bridges, rivers and houses. Traditional gardens are worthy visiting such as the Tuisi Garden which was built from 1885 to 1887 by an imperial official. It is a popular destination for young people to take wedding photos and celebrate the honeymoon in China. To take a small boat or rickshaw ride to experience the water town is a great way to visit Tongli.

Nearby attractions: Luoxingzhou Island, Tuisi Garden and Gengle Hall

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Located in the southwest Kunshan City, Zhouzhuang has the reputation of top 1 water town in China. Constructed in 1086, Zhouzhuang Ancient Town has been existed for more than 900 years. But it was rename to Zhouzhuang Town during Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty. Zhouzhuang is a typical Jiangnan style water town composed of small bridges, clear water and Jiangnan gardens.

Famous attractions in Zhouzhuang consist of Shen Wanshan's Former Residence, Fu'an Bridge, Shen Hall, Double Bridges and Zhouzhuang Eight Scenes. There are some well-preserved houses of the Qing Dynasty such as Shen Hall. Besides, there are religious places such as Chengxu Taoism Temple and Quanfu Buddhism Temple.

Nearby attractions: Tinglin Garden and Thousand Lights Ancient Town

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Xitang Ancient Town

Xitang Ancient Town

As one of top 6 water towns in Jiangnan, Xitang is located in Jianshan County which is the juncture of Jiangsu Province, Jiangsu Province and Shanghai. It's convenient to reach from Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou. People got together at Xitang during the Tang Dynasty, and there were markets in the Southern Song Dynasty. It had been a key handicraft and business town in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

As a typical Jiangnan rich family house, the West Garden is the largest private garden in Xitang Ancient Town. Shipi Lane is Xitang's longest and narrowest lane. Taking a boat to see beautiful sceneries along the small river is one thing not to miss in Xitang. Thousands of rhododendrons are open in April every year, so you can see a more beautiful Xitang at the time.

Nearby attractions: Yuanjue Temple, Xitang Yellow Wine Museum and Root Carving Museum

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Wuzhen Ancient Town

Wuzhen Ancient Town

It is said that Wuzhen Ancient Town has a more 6000 years history, so it's the earliest water town among Jiangnan water towns. It gets the reputation as one of top 6 classical water towns in Jiangnan area. Mao Dun (a great modern Chinese writer) vividly described Wuzhen in his book The Lin's Shop.

When you visit Wuzhen Ancient Town, you should see its sceneries during the day time and at night. You can get different styles photos of Wuzhen Ancient Town which are beautiful at any time. Former Residence of Mao Dun, Fanglu Pavilion and Bridge in Bridge are popular attractions in the ancient town. If you are lucky, you can also see how to make printed blue calico there.

Nearby attractions: Jiaxing South and North Lake, Yanguan Tidal Bore Scenic Area in Haining and Xitang Ancient Town

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Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

Located in Qingpu District in Shanghai, Zhujiajiao Ancient Town is one of top 4 historical and cultural ancient towns in Shanghai. Nearby Bingding Lake, the town is famous for its 3 li (1 li = 12 kilometres) streets with thousands of shops. It is a popular destination to see Jiangnan water town in Shanghai.

The town has 36 ancient small bridges and dozens of well-preserved ancient houses of the Qing Dynasty. Fangsheng Bridge built in the Ming Dynasty is the biggest 5-hole stone bridge in Shanghai. The town in dusk can make you experience a different journey of Chinese water town. Take a small boat is a great way to see picturesque shores beside the river.

Nearby attractions: The Grand View Garden and Dingshan Lake

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Fujian Earth Buildings

Fujian Earth Buildings

Earth buildings, known as Tulou, are the Hakka's typical countryside houses in the mountainous areas of southeast Fujian. Most earth buildings in Fujian are constructed from the 12th to 20 centuries. The unique buildings stand for the Kakka's own culture. Here you can not only enjoy the architecture art, but also experience the Kakka's culture and life.

The best tulou relics in Fujian consist of Yongding tulou cluster, Chuxi tulou cluster, Tianluokeng Tulou cluster, and Zhenchenglou, and Chengqi Lou. You can also visit Dadi tulou cluster, Hongkeng tulou cluster and Yuchang Lou.

Nearby attractions: the Knot Ancient Town and Fujian Butch Villa

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Pingyao Ancient City

Pingyao Ancient City

Pingyao is a well-preserved ancient county of the Ming and Qing Dynasty. The city wall in Pingyao was firstly built in the Ming Dynasty. To see a sunset and have a glance at the whole ancient county are popular things to do in Pingyao. You can wander in the ancient county to see local people'life and culture, and explore antique goods in the Mingqing Street.

Pingyao Ancient City Wall is 6,163 meters long and 12 meters wide. It divided Pingyao into two parts-an old ancient county inside and a modern city outside. Pingyao night scene is so beautiful that you need to see there. You should not miss the unique Pingyao beef which has been famous since the Qing Dynasty.

Nearby attractions: the Grand Courtyard of Qiao Family, Double Wood Monastery and the Grand Courtyard of Wang Family.

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Wuyuan County

Wuyuan County

Wuyuan County is famous for its grand rape flower fields and ancient Huizhou style architecture. A large number of yellow rape flowers are open in terraced field from March to the middle of April. It is one of the most popular villages to visit in spring.

Located in Shangrao City in Jiangxi Province, Wuyuan County has a more than 1200 years history. It is widely loved by photographers especial the foggy village in the morning. Natural sceneries and a quiet countryside life are the highlights in the county. As one of the six ancient Huizhou counties, it is one of the birthplaces of Huizhou culture.

Nearby attractions: the Rainbow Bridge, Mandarin Duck Lake and Zhu Xi's Memorial Hall

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Hongcun Village

Hongcun Village

Great natural beauty has attracted more and more travelers to head to Hongcun Village. The Village was built in the Northern Song Dynasty, so it has existed for about 1,000 years now. People in ancient times constructed a cattle-shape village with outstanding artificial water systems. You can have a glance at cattle-shape Hongcun village from a far distance.

There are more 140 well-preserved ancient houses of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is less touched by travelers, so you can experience original ancient countryside instead of a bit of modern city. Among the ancient buildings in Hongcun, Chengzhi Hall built by a salt business man in the Qing Dynasty is the most famous house.

Nearby attractions: the Yellow Mountain and Xidi Village

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Kanas Tuva Village—Hemu Ancient Village

Kanas Tuva Village—Hemu Ancient Village

If you are looking for the most beautiful quiet village in China, the Tuva villages in the Kanas area (喀纳斯) of Burqin County in Xinjiang (新疆) will definitely hit the mark. There are three Tuva villages altogether, all populated by the Mongolian Tuva and Kazak peoples: Hemu Village, Kanas Village and Baihaba Village. Hemu Village (禾木) represents the best as regards culture, and is considered to have the best views in the Kanas area.
Known as God's Back Garden, Hemu currently has about 1,800 villagers living in chalets scattered on the hillside and grassland. Villagers still keep the old traditions and live an authentic lifestyle. Chalets are half underground, protecting residents from the cold weather when the snows block off the mountain. When first arriving in Hemu, the sight of rows of the chalets and herds of sheep in front of the snowy mountains under the blue sky will catch your eyes. Highlights are sunrise, morning fog, the chalets and the Hemu River, which all offer great photo opportunities. Go there between the end of August and mid-September when the place is at its best and the weather is not too cold.
One interesting fact is that the local people hold water in such high esteem that bathing, washing clothes and throwing rubbish in the river are strictly prohibited. Please do respect the customs. Also, don't refuse the meat or quilts offered by your host. Note that things are not cheap in the village.

Nearby attractions: Kanas Lake, Baihaba Village, Kanas Village

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Danba Tibetan Village

Danba Tibetan Village

The Danba Tibetan Villages have enjoyed a great reputation since 2005 when they were rated as the most beautiful ancient villages in China by Chinese National Geography. Luckily, due to their remote location, they are not very commercial and still retain their original lifestyle. The villages are situated in Danba County in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of the Sichuan Province, a 334 km, 9–10 hour drive from Chengdu.
Jiaju Tibetan Village (甲居藏寨), situated about 11 km from downtown Danba, is the most famous of these villages and also the highlight of the Danba area. Residential buildings are spread on the hillside from the foot of the hill right to the top. The buildings are very distinctive, with yellow, red and white colors, and are known as Diaolou buildings (碉楼). Their original functions were both defensive and residential. The entrance fee to the village is 30 yuan, which includes a visit to a local family where visitors can enjoy a meal and other foods such as pears and walnuts. Butter tea is a must-drink. If stopping overnight in a local village, you may even be able to take great photos of the stars at night from the rooftops.

On the way back to Danba county, there is an ancient place called Zhonglu Village (中路乡) , which was a settlement as long ago as the Neolithic age. This Tranquil village is more original and is comprised of a variety of stone Diaolou buildings.
The other highlight should try not to miss in Danba are the many beautiful women. Though there are only around 70,000 people in Danba County, there are up to 3000 ladies who have gone to Chengdu and Beijing to work as actresses or dancers. So prepare your cameras for both the beautiful scenery and the beautiful girls.

Nearby attractions: Daocheng County, Yading

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Located in Longyan County in the Fujian Province, Yongding City is renowned for its Tulou buildings. It has been known worldwide since 1995, when the models of the Yongding Tulou buildings (永定土楼) and Temple of Heaven in Beijing were first presented at the World Architecture Exhibition in Los Angeles in the U.S. The buildings gained fame as the Ancient Castles of the East.

The unique residential mountain buildings were listed as a World Heritage Site in July, 2008. There are 360 round buildings, and 4,000 square. The buildings are so big that they can accommodate hundreds of people, and originally a single building was home to a small society. Usually an extended family would all live together, along with their livestock. The buildings are shockproof, fireproof and defensive, and remain warm in winter and cool in summer.

Standing in the building, one can imagine the daily routines of the big family who once lived there for many generations. They show a perfect mix of Suzhou garden design and ancient Greek architecture.

Nearby attractions: Gulangyu Island in Xiamen City

Recommended Yongding Tours & Services:

Peitian Ancient Village

Peitian Ancient Village

Peitian Ancient Village (培田古村) in the Fujian Province is regarded as the first village of Fujian residential buildings. It is very precious, as the village has not been spoiled by tourism and commercialization. The village is an ancient Hakka Village consisting of buildings in the Ming and Qing style with a history of more than 800 years, and is located about 100 km from Longyan City, and 300 km from Xiamen City.

If Yongding Tulou buildings are like closed, solid, ancient castles, the residential buildings in Peitian could be considered big, elegant, bold manor houses. Although there are only about 1000 villagers, it boasts thirty big dwellings, twenty-one ancestral temples, six academies, four temples, and even two memorial archways across the street, most of which stand on either side of the 1000-km ancient road. Incredibly, all this is within an area of only 13.4 square meters.

Besides these valuable sites, the backdrop of the mountain scenery is also a highlight, as the village is situated at the foot Guanzhai Mountain. Being one of the major staging points along the state road in ancient times, visitors can now imagine the busy scene when many horse-drawn carriages went by.

Nearby attractions: Yongding Tulou Buildings

Recommended Peitian Tours & Services:

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