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Luzhi Culture

You won't find international cultural initiatives in the town of Luzhi such as theatre and opera – or even folk song performances, for that matter – but you will find an ancient village here which, like a handful of other villages in China, might be called a living museum in the sense that life is lived pretty much the same as it always has been, except for the modern person's appreciation of the existence of a wide, wide world beyond Luzhi's borders. That said, Luzhi has a hospital, two primary schools, two middle schools and a special secondary training school. And of course Luzhi Water Town has numerous shops and eateries – both restaurants and stalls.

Being a relatively small town, Luzhi naturally celebrates no special festivals specific to the town, though all of the traditional Chinese festivals, as they appear on the Chinese Lunar Calendar, are celebrated here by the residents themselves. Luzhi, with its quiet charms, is primarily a place to observe a piece of well-preserved, ancient Chinese cultural heritage, broadly defined; by its very 'off the beaten path' nature, Luzhi is not suited to spirited festivals, nor does it offer either hotel accommodations or overnighting with a local family as that would spoil the very concept of Luzhi Water Town as a preservation-worthy local culture.

Quiet, Charming, Priceless!

As indicated in the above, Luzhi has preserved much of its architectural heritage, stretching back to the Song Dynasty, and with many buildings that stem from the Ming and Qing Dynasty.

The town's canals flow between stone walls, or revetments. The canals can be quite narrow in some stretches, then they suddenly open into a "bulge" here and there with mooring stones for boats and stone staircases that lead up to street level. These mooring stations also offered householders ready access to the canals, where water could be fetched and clothing washed. Where canals intersect there are plazas with space for mooring of several boats, and with ancient public wells. The plazas were also meeting places where festivals, marriages, etc., were celebrated. They also served – do still! – as marketplaces, with names that generally correspond to compass directions, such as West Market, Middle Market and East Market.

On the opposite side of the rows of houses are stone-paved streets. Though the horizontal space fits a pattern, it does not consist of a symmetrical, or grid-like pattern. The overall impression of the horizontal layout of the city is one of variation. Similarly, the town's temples, houses, former residences of famous people, memorial archways, and official buildings form an equally varied vertical space variation, and the colors are contrasting, but pleasingly muted.

The overall layout of the city's canal system is in the form of a modified hashtag represented by the Chinese character, 六 (meaning "well", or "pit", though the semantic content of the character has no significance in this context), formed by the Dongshi, Nanshi, Xihui, Xishi and Zhongshi Rivers – albeit, all canals. These five canals are in turn fed by the Liuzhi River, or the main canal, which itself is fed by the nearby Wusong River.

Commerce in Luzhi Water Town was integrated into the traditional dwelling, which is to say that the ground floor of a dwelling might serve as a shop while the merchant and his family occupied the living quarters above the shop. Or, if a workshop – such as a smithy (blacksmith), etc. – then the family dwelling would be situated in front; the shop in back.

Like Zhouzhuang Water Town, Luzhi also has a cormorant fishing tradition, as can be seen in the image (Figure 18) below. The Ming Dynasty poet Gao Qi captured the idyllic mood and scenery of Luzhi Water Town – including a cormorant fisherman on the way home after the morning fishing trip – in his poem, Scene of Puli, written in the Yuan Dynasty Sanqu (short phrase; long phrase) poetry style:

A Very Fetching Luzhi Woman, if Not Entirely Comfortable With Being Photographed

Long bridge, short bridge with willows;

Front stream, rear stream with lotus;

Villagers watching, banner hoisted over wine merchant's shop;

Seagulls circling, homeward bound the fisherman's dinghy.

Another unique cultural tradition of Luzhi is the traditional – but updated to modern standards – costume worn by the village's women, which almost becomes a uniform. The multi-piece costume, of cotton fabric, is put together in contrasting colors, with blue – usually a medium to dark blue – as the dominant color. The Luzhi woman wears a jacket smartly buttoned down the side, a pair of dark trousers in a contrasting color of blue, over which an apron is worn, tied in back with ribbon-like straps which, like a tail, hang freely, extending to the back of the knees and on whose tips are customarily sewn red and/or green tassels. For footwear, the Luzhi woman wears a pair of softly contoured, embroidered slippers. In general, a Luzhi woman's dress is designed so as to enhance her natural beauty.

The Luzhi woman's hair is typically braided into coils in back. Atop her head she wears a kerchief, usually in a contrastingly blackish-bluish color, adorned with feathers or artificial flowers, and tied such that the braided coils of her hair, generally folded to make it somewhat shorter, barely protrudes. More flowers, feathers or a small white scarf are unfailingly attached to this short, bun-like "pony tail" just where it exits the kerchief. The result is very appealing, as can be seen in the image immediately below.

Typical Scene of Luzhi Women Dressed in the Traditional Costume

There are of course winter costumes, as in Figure 19 on left, and lighter costumes – such as spring/fall costumes and summer costumes – as seen in Figure 20 below (note the presence of both the flowers and the white scarf attached to the bun in back, but here, the scarf is allowed to drape over the back of the neck, either shielding the wearer from the sun or providing a modicum of protection from draughty weather.

There are also different female costumes for different stages of life. For example, young girls wear their hair in pigtails tied with red ribbons, and typically wear a red scarf, otherwise their attire mimics that of their mothers, the young-adult to middle-aged females. Elderly Luzhi women, on the other hand, wear a more somber outfit, all in darker colors, while they cover their hair, done up in a bun in back, with a hairnet. Instead of wearing trousers with an apron over them, they wear a dress, typically in black, with an optional apron, tied in the usual manner.

A Typical Scene from Luzhi Water Town Showing a Complete Female Attire

Luzhi Water Town was recognized in 2003 by the government of the PRC as one of "Ten Famous Historical Townships in China". In 2004, Luzhi received a Township Preservation Award from UNESCO, and in 2008, Luzhi was specifically mentioned on the UNESCO Tentative List of World Cultural Heritage Sites (The Ancient Waterfront Towns South of the Yangtze River), together with other water towns in the area such as Nanxun, Tongli, Wuzhen, Xitang and Zhouzhuang.

Luzhi Highlights

There is quite a lot of historical things to see in Luzhi Water Town, even though, compared to neighboring water towns, Luzhi is small. The most striking feature of the town is its many stone arch bridges, some, as indicated, dating back to the Song Dynast» more

Luzhi Food

The restaurants and stalls in Luzhi serve local Chinese fare that can also appeal to the Western palate. Besides the usual Chinese (and Jiangsu) dishes, one can find certain specialties specific to Suzhou's water towns, such as trotters (pigs feet). » more

Luzhi Transportation

There are many long-distance buses that arrive in Luzhi. These depart from either Shanghai or Suzhou (Luzhi lies near the main expressway, the G2 Jinghu Expy, between Shanghai and Suzhou). There is also a local bus from Tongli Water Town to Luzhi (none from Zhouzhang Water Town). » more

Luzhi Accommodation

As Luzhi is a small and less developed place, there is no accommodation there. One-day tour for Luzhi Water Town is enough. Tourists can also spend a night in local people' houses. In fact, over-development would spoil the very nature of Luzhi as a preservation-worthy local culture.


As Luzhi is a small and less developed place, tourists can enjoy the tranquility and take a rest for hearts. One-day tour for Luzhi Water Town is enough. In fact, over-development would spoil the very nature of Luzhi as a preservation-worthy local culture.

Luzhi Culture

You won't find international cultural initiatives in the town of Luzhi such as theatre and opera, or even folk song performances, for that matter, but you will find an ancient village here which, like a handful of other villages in China. » more


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