Home > China Travel Special Reports > Ancient Water Towns Near Shanghai

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen is one of the top six ancient water towns south of the Yangtze River, with the world famous Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal running through the town. It is situated in Tongxiang County of Zhejiang Province, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Hangzhou, 140 kilometers (87 miles) from Shanghai.

Wuzhen is divided into four scenic sections: Dongzha, Nanzha, Xizha, and Beizha. Nanzha and Beizha are where the locals live, and Dongzha and Xizha are commercial tourist areas. Dongzha roughly preserves its original layout, while Xizha has been reconstructed to reflect the water town’s features from ancient times.

 

Wuzhen Water Town

  • Transport: From Shanghai, bullet train from Shanghai Hongqiao to Tongxiang + taxi: 40 + 20 minutes ; bus from Shanghai South Bus Station to Wuzhen: 2 hours
  • History: over 1,300 years
  • Visiting time: 2 days
  • Suitable for: all people
  • English signs: not many
  • Features: streets, lanes, corridors, and bridges

Why We Recommend Wuzhen

Boasting a history of more than six thousand years, Wuzhen has always been situated on fertile land, with abundant rice, fish and silk. Murmuring rivers cross the town. Small boats with black awnings float on the rivers.

Stone Bridge

Above the rivers, quaint stone bridges can be seen everywhere. And along the rivers, houses made of black bricks and gray tiles form a sharp contrast to the white walls. All of these make Wuzhen like a Chinese ink-wash drawing.

No matter whether wandering along the riverside or strolling in the lanes, the picturesque scenery will impress you deeply.

More than other beautiful water towns south of the Yangtze River, Wuzhen is renowned for its long history and profound culture. It is the hometown of many celebrities of Chinese culture, such as Mao Dun, a literary master; and Mu Xin, a popular poet and writer. They left a unique cultural legacy in the town.

Explore the Highlights

Dongzha

Dongzha has many souvenir shops and restaurants. In the peak season, the streets are thronged with Chinese tourists (few foreigners), and the waterway is busy with single-oar skiffs carrying up to six passengers.

Open: 7:20 – 18:00 (May 1 – October 8); otherwise till 17:30

Entry: CNY 100

Attractions

Former Residence of Mao Dun

  • Former Residence of Mao Dun

Mao Dun, a great and respected writer in modern China, is best known for his long novel Midnight. His former home, a traditional Chinese style house built during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), is located in the middle part of Guan Qian Street, where he lived his happy childhood.

  • Hong Yuan Tai Dye House

Blue printed cloth of China is world-renowned for its beauty, delicacy and good quality. Wuzhen is one of the original places where it was manufactured, and Hong Yuan Tai Dye House enjoys a good reputation for its blue printed cloth.

The process of making blue printed cloth is complex but interesting. Observing it reminds you of the intricacy of craftsmanship in ancient China.

  • Museums

There are several museums in Dongzha. Here are the two most interesting.

One is a museum housing dozens of ancient beds, the first such museum in China. The most delicate item in its collection is the Bed of a Thousand Craftsmen, which took more than three years to be made by a thousand craftsmen, hence its name.

Another is the Museum of Folk Customs in Southern Yangtze River Region, which describes to tourists unique local birthday ceremonies, wedding customs, and folk customs at various festivals. Here you can learn about the interesting life style of local people.

Xizha

Xizha

Xizha has been rebuilt and renovated in original style with many unique architectural features, such as colonnades, small bridges, balconies, piers, wooden windows and doors, and gray stone walls and paving.

And there are a good number of side alleys, bridges, ancient docks, and secondary waterways, which make it a fascinating place for strolling around.

Open: 9:00 – 22:30 (May 1 – October 8); otherwise till 22:00

Entry: CNY 120; CNY 150 includes Dongzha and is valid for 1 day

Attractions

  • Fengyuan Bridge

Because of the cover above it, this bridge is also called the covered bridge. It is a magical bridge, which can bring good luck in one’s career.

It’s said that when one passes by this bridge, he should walk one half of it first, before walking the other half. In this way, he will have “fengyuan both on the left and on the right”, which means he will be successful in his career.

  • Chinese Foot Binding Culture Museum

Women’s feet were called “three-inch golden lotuses” in ancient China. Young girls were forced to bind their feet with cloth to make the feet smaller, which was regarded as more beautiful. Consequently, their feet became distorted and malformed, sometimes unable to support their bodies steadily.

Night Scene

Many pictures and models showing former scenes are on exhibit in the museum. Besides, more than 500 hundred shoes in the museum are worth seeing, representing the evolution of ancient Chinese shoes.

  • Night Scene

The night scene is Xizha’s special attraction for tourists. At night, the lights in the houses along both sides of the river are lit, which makes Xizha a dreamlike world.

With clusters of light-dots reflecting on the waving water, tourists can enjoy the leisure, as well as the noise or quietness of the dreamland, by taking a short single-oar ferry on the river.

Folk Shows

  • Shadow puppetry

Shadow puppetry is a traditional art form accompanied by traditional Chinese musical instruments, such as the flute, gong, and erhu. It is famous for its lingering music, exquisite sculpture, bright colors and lively performances.

Show times: 8.30–11.20 am; 1.00–4.30 pm (every 10 minutes)

  • Martial arts performances

Martial arts are performed on boxing boats, which always moor on the bank. Actors in kungfu suits battle with sabers, swords, and other traditional weapons, fighting each other, to the sound of clamoring drums.

Show times: 8.30 am, 9.30 am, 10.30 am, 11.10 am, 1.30 pm, 2.30 pm, 3.30 pm, and 4.10 pm

Food

Snacks

Gusaobing

  • Dingshenggao

This is a kind of steamed pastry made from polished round-grained rice and sticky rice. It is light red, and tastes sweet and soft. Ingredients include sweetened bean paste, with white sugar and osmanthus.

  • Gusaobing

This is another kind of steamed pastry made of flour, white sugar, pepper, salt, sesame and lard. It is white, and tastes crisp, sweet and salty.

  • Qingtuan

This is also a kind of steamed pastry made of sticky rice, and wormwood juice. It is green, and tastes soft, sweet and salty. Ingredients include sweetened bean paste or lotus paste.

Dishes

  • Braised Mutton with Soy Sauce

Baishui Fish

This is the most popular dish in Wuzhen. The ingredient-selection is very strict. It needs Hu lamb, which is tenderer but with less fat. It is best to enjoy this dish in winter, for abundant nutrition, good health and warmth.

  • Baishui Fish

This is a dish of steamed fish made with rare freshwater fish thriving in Wuzhen. This fish tastes tender and succulent, but it has more bones, so be careful when enjoying it.

Drinks

Tea — Baked Edamame Tea

Tea

This specialty is made from fresh edamame, which should be boiled in hot water after baking on a charcoal fire for 5~6 hours. Only in this way can the tea be fragrant and tasty. Along with baked edamame, there is also osmanthus, sesame and so on.

Wine — Three White Wine

Wuzhen has a long history of brewing alcohol, of which the most famous is Three White Wine — a famous alcoholic drink that pleases the palate with its soft, lasting mellowness. It is handcrafted through traditional methods. Its name comes from its ingredients: white rice, white flour and white water (i.e. pure water).

Essential Guide and Planning Tips

Transportation

How to reach Wuzhen from the cities around it

  • From Hangzhou — Best Choice

Bullet Train to Tongxiang + taxi: 25 + 20 minutes

Bus from Hangzhou East Bus Station to Wuzhen: 50 minutes

  • From Shanghai — Better by Bullet Train

Bullet train from Shanghai Hongqiao to Tongxiang + taxi: 40 + 20 minutes

Bus from Shanghai South Bus Station to Wuzhen: 2 hours

  • From Suzhou — Quicker and Cheaper by Bus

Ferry

Bus to Wuzhen: 1.5 hours

Bullet train to Tongxiang: 1.5 hours

Transportation in Wuzhen

  • Pedicab: Cheap, recommended for short tours
  • Taxi: Expensive, better for long tours
  • Ferry: Must-choice for water tours
  • Sightseeing Bus: Cheap, quicker than pedicab

Accommodation

Economic Hotels

Economic hotels are for those who are not so particular about accommodation. They are like home stay inns. The rooms face either a canal or a street. All these hotels are managed by the West Area Tourist Office, and guests cannot contact the hotel owners beforehand.

Economic Hotel

Reception desks are located opposite the Yusheng Restaurant, where there is a computer for you to search for economic hotel information.

We recommend the following hotels, which all have platforms by the river, and provide excellent venues for evening dinners and sightseeing:

  • Wen Gu Hotel — largest viewing platform, No. 17
  • Fu An Hotel — all beds are 1.2 meters wide, No. 22
  • Ju Xian Hotel — No. 50

As long as there are vacant rooms, guests can usually select a specific hotel at the reception desk.

Star-Rated Hotels

This kind of hotel is for those who want to have a more comfortable living environment.

Note that the star-rated hotels in Wuzhen do not necessarily meet all national four- or five-star standards.

Here we recommend two hotels:

  • Tong An Hotel — the largest hotel in Xizha, with the most facilities and various room types. Some standard rooms face Yuanbao Lake. Suites 405–410 are the most impressive, with a small balcony along the canal, and elegant antique decoration.
  • Zhaoming Hotel — newly opened, with a tranquil atmosphere and verdant trees. There is only one room type, with two beds separated by wood-carved windows.

Boutique Hotel

Boutique Hotel

This kind of hotel is for those who want to have high-quality living standards.

There are three boutique hotels in Xizha:

  • Shinetown — features courtyards
  • Splendid Clubhouse — the most luxurious
  • Healtown — the lowest-priced

In these hotels, rooms are mostly king-bedded.