Ever heard of ‘The Venice of Shanghai?’ No, well then you may want to pencil this one into your itinerary. The Zhujiajiao Water Town is only 30 km from Shanghai, and it is a popular day trip for those visiting the city.
Take a break from the futuristic architecture of Shanghai and peek into traditional Chinese life. With a history of more than 1,700 years, Zhujiajiao is a town that sits right along the canals and waterways of the Yangtze River. Boats are used to get around, and the town is full of ornate bridges to make the temples and shops more accessible.
Aside from the history, visitors can taste the local cuisine, shop for handmade goods, and spend the day photographing ancient China up close.
Zhujiajiao Water Town Facts
-The buildings here date back to the Qing and Ming dynasties.
-Zhujiajiao used to be a popular trading route for the nearby countryside.
-The alleyways are usually full of vendors selling traditional snacks, meals, and souvenirs.
-There have been archeological findings here that date back more than 5,000 years.
-There are around 36 stone bridges still intact in Zhujiajiao.
-The town covers an area of 47 square kilometers.
-The town is also referred to as ‘Pearl Stream.’
-Ancient street is one kilometer long and is the most well-preserved street in the entire town.
Zhujiajiao was developed into a town during the Ming dynasty, under the rule of Emperor Wanli. However, it was during the 1930s that it was in its prime. During this time period, there were around 70 rice stores, and much of the product was sold to the nearby towns.
Because the town was strategically built at the intersection of local rivers, it prospered quickly. Through trading rice and cloth, merchants were able to grow their wealth and the town as a whole.
One of the oldest buildings, a post office, was developed back in the Qing dynasty, around 1862. The private gardens around town also reflect the history. Most of them were owned by landlords and wealthy officials.
The Culture of Zhujiajiao Water Town
After years of prosperity and beautiful natural scenery, the culture of this town has grown more distinct. Tourists come from all over China, and the world to experience the history and the rich culture that exudes from the area.
The best way to experience it is to spend a day or two exploring the town. There is a lot to do here, but you can start with these top cultural attractions:
-Kezhi Gardens: This garden is home to the tallest structure in the town, a 5-story building with a pavilion on the roof. The garden dates back to 1912 and was constructed with both Chinese and European influences in mind. Over the years, it has gone through various renovations and damages. However, it is now standing tall and beautiful, ready for visitors.
-Dajie Street: This is the main street in Zhujiajiao, and is lined with historic buildings and sites. Visit the Handicraft Exhibition Hall, the Pharmacy, and the Fansheng Bridge while you’re there.
-Qing Dynasty Post Office: This building is located on Xihu street. It’s the most well-preserved post office in the country and has plenty of artifacts on display. Visitors can see antique post cards and letters that have been written on bamboo.
-The Bridges: The town is most well-known for its bridges. There are around 36 stone bridges that can be seen while wandering around. Some of them even date back to the Ming dynasty. Fangsheng bridge is the most famous as it has a rich history, is architecturally beautiful, and is now bustling with people and vendors.
While visiting also make sure to :
Stop in a café or tea house: The Book Room is a great spot for tea and a look at over 30,000 Chinese books in the collection. There’s also the Bum Café which is great for coffee.
Take a boat ride: A great way to see the town is by gondola. They will take you through the canals on either a short ride down the main strip or a long ride through the entire town. Visitors can also take a lake trip, which requires boats that are a bit larger.
See The Water Heavens Show: Produced by an Oscar-winning composer, this show goes on every Saturday. It takes place in the town music hall which can be dated back to the Ming Dynasty. The show consists of monk chants, Chinese Pipa, water percussions, and a string quartette.
Shop for souvenirs: Don’t leave empty-handed when you visit Zhujiajiao. The best souvenirs to take home include Chinese instruments, porcelain, handmade textiles, and wooden puzzles.
Eat and drink: While you can find local snacks and vendors around the town, there are two establishments that you should also check out. Zher is a bar and restaurant owned by a local punk musician. There is seating outside during nice days, but when it’s cold, guests can sit indoors. It’s a renovated house that has colorfully painted floors, a film projector, hookahs, a foosball table, handmade jewelry for sale, and a mix of punk, ska, and hardcore music playing.
Tips For VisitingZhujiajiao Water Town
-Wear sturdy walking shoes when visiting so that you don’t get too tired from wandering the alleyways. If visiting in summer, make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen.
-Bring a great camera because there are tons of photo opportunities.
-Get lost because there are plenty of side streets and hidden gems around the area.
-If visiting with children, keep them close by as they can easily fall into the canals and waterways.
-Take a boat ride around the canal as it’s one of the best ways to really experience the town.
-Bring plenty of cash so that you can buy from the street vendors and souvenir shops.
-Consider hiring a tour guide so that you can understand the history and significance of the places you visit.