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The Six Ancient Towns in the Southern Yangtze River Area

Bridge, Water and Ancient Houses ----- the Six Ancient Towns in the Southern Yangtze River Area

Autumn is coming. In this delightful season, why not carry an easel and go out to appreciate the natural beauty and human culture with your friends. You can write down what you have experienced during your trip. When you go back home and lie on bed, reading your traveling diary, you may experience the pleasure once again. Today I would like to introduce the six ancient towns in the southern Yangtze river area. Those who are interested in the water region should not miss the opportunity to visit these places because every place in the water region is worth drawing and every painter may appreciate these towns from a specific perspective. Here we can just give you a general introduction of these ancient towns. We hope that you can have unexpected gains when you go there.

The first town: Zhouzhuang town in Kunshan City of Jiangsu Province

Mentioning the ancient town Zhouzhuang, you cannot avoid talking of the bridges here. The bridges in Zhouzhuang are antique and simple with various forms. They are also mysterious: in the old days there were many poets gathering beside the Zhenfeng bridge and appreciating poems. The most famous bridge is undoubtedly the Double Bridges. Located in the center of Zhouzhuang, the Double Bridges is on the crisscrossing river ways. The two bridges intersect with one another in a right angel. The local people call it “ Key bridge ” . Many years ago, Chen Yifei, a famous painter, created a piece of canvas about the Double Bridges. Then an American oil magnate collected it. Later on when this magnate visited China, he presented this painting to Mr. Deng Xiaoping. From then on, Zhouzhuang became world-famous together with the Double Bridges.

The river ways of Zhouzhuang are like a Chinese character jing that is the essence of the water village. There are many tourists in each water lane and groups of small boats on each river.

The houses of Zhouzhuang are built beside water. Everywhere is the compound of connecting courtyards with red walls and green tiles and waterside pavilions with carved girders. Shen Hall and Zhang Hall are especially grand. They are still very graceful after hundreds of years. From the end of Yuan Dynasty to the early Ming Dynasty, the wealthiest person Shen Wansan lived in Zhouzhuang. He donated money to build 1/3 of Nanjing ’ s city walls. However, he offended then Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang and was exiled to Yunan. He finally died there. Now Shen Hall (Shen Wansan mansion) still stands there, reminding people of its owner ’ s tragic story. It gives the atmosphere of solemnity to floating water and small bridges in Zhouzhuang.

Many people have painted Zhouzhuang on paper, so you need to find a particular perspective to appreciate it.

Transport: There are long-distance buses directly to Zhouzhuang from Shanghai, Suzhou, Kunshan and Qingpu.

The second town: Tongli town in Wujiang City, Jiangsu Province

There are many civilian houses in Tongli. Though they are not built along the riverside as those in Zhouzhuang, they make people feel wider. The river ways here are wider and made of bluestone flags.

The most famous sites in Tongli are " one garden, two halls and three bridges " , which are all very antique. The one garden refers to the famous garden in the southern Yangtze River area --- Tuisi Garden. The garden was arranged exquisitely in a small area. When you enter it, you may find the scenery in front of your eyes are so different. The two halls refer to Chongben Hall and Jiayin Hall. The three bridges refer to Taiping Bridge, Jili Bridge and Changqing Bridge.

Both of the civilian houses and gardens in Tongli are very beautiful, but the bridges here are my favorite.

Tongli is surrounded by five lakes and there are winding lanes and crisscrossing rivers in it. Therefore, there are many ancient bridges of various dynasties left here. The most ancient bridge in this town is Siben Bridge that was built in Southern Song Dynasty 700 years ago. Crossing above the clear water, though eroded by wind and rain, it is still very solid. The name of the bridge “ Siben ” means that a nation is on the basis of people and the people is on the basis of foodstuff.

The smallest bridge in Tongli is Dubu Bridge over the lotus pond of Huangcui mountain lodge. It is no longer than five chi (3 chi=1 meter) and no wider than three chi. When two people meet on the bridge, they need go sideways to get through. The single-opening arch-shaped bridge is really a masterpiece of bridge construction for its small and exquisite design. The bridge reflecting the diligence of Tongli people is Pu ' an Bridge, alias Xiao Dongxi Bridge. Built in the 1 st year of Zhengde Period in Ming Dynasty (1506), the bridge has an attracting couplet curved on its western wall. The first line of the couplet is " the moon projects a circle on the water " and the second line is " people reads on both banks of the river " . Fuguan Bridge is the most mysterious bridge. On the Dragon Gate Stone of this bridge, there is a vivid stone carving describing " a fish becomes a dragon in the wave of peach blossom" .

Situated in the northern suburb of the western town, Wujin Bridge is the only road from Suzhou to Tongli in old days and an important entrance as well. In order to welcome the Taiping Army, the people here finished building this bridge overnight. The stone in the middle of the bridge have a carved painting of " postman announcing good news on the horse '' . It was intended to hope that Taiping Army would succeed in battles.

The most famous bridges in Tongli are certainly the Three Bridges mentioned above. Located in the middle of the town, the three bridges are on the joining point of three rivers like a triangle. The shadow of the ancient bridge is reflected on the green water and the graceful figure of the bridge in hidden in the green trees. What an amazing scene! Walking on the three bridges has been a traditional custom in Tongli for a long time.

Besides various ancient bridges, Tongli has many river-bridges that attract the tourists. The so-called ''river-bridge '' meaning dock has different names in the north and in the south of China. As a water village, Tongli has a river way of 5 kilometers long. It is a typical ancient town in the water region where every house is beside water and every family is commuting by boat.

Transport: There are buses in Shanghai, Suzhou and Wuxian that can reach Tongli directly. There are traveling boats between Tongli and Zhouzhuang.

The third town: Luzhi town in Zhigu county of Wujiang, Jiangsu Province. Situated 25 kilometers to the east of Suzhou, Luzhi town has a history of more than 2000 years. It was named Fuli in ancient times and got its new name Luzhi in Tang Dynasty because the river way here is in the shape of the Chinese character Lu .

Luzhi town is a water region in the southern Yangtze River area. It boasts arhat sculptures and ancient commercial streets. The town is called the joining area of five lakes because there are many crisscrossing rivers (the five lakes are Cheng Lake, Wanqian Lake, Jinji Lake, Dushu Lake and Yangcheng Lake). The town has another name the thoroughfare of six rivers. The six rivers are Wusong River, Qiangshui River, Nantang River, Jiepu River, Dongtang River and Dazhi River.

There is a 2000-meter-long ancient street and a water region embankment of nearly 2000 meters long. Along the bank there are many cable stakes that are carved with beautiful patterns.

Because of the great number of bridges, Luzhi is entitled as three steps and two bridges. There were 72 and a half bridges of various shapes from Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties in about 1 square kilometers. But now there are only 41 preserved. Among them, the most ancient bridge is Hefeng Bridge that was established in Song Dynasty. The bridge is exquisite in arts and crafts and is perfectly preserved until now.

There are a lot of relics in the town such as White Lotus Temple, imperial concubine Sun ' s tomb, King Wu' s palace and Baosheng Temple, etc. Built in A.D. 503, Baosheng Temple was designed by Yang Huizhi in Tang Dynasty who was the master of the sculpture art. There are 9 arhat sculptures of Tang Dynasty left in the temple. The vivid expression of the arhats embodies the fine technique of the artisan. They are valuable sculpture works that are handed down from ancient times.

The famous litterateur Ye Shengtao had ever taught here. It is said that many of his famous works are written in Luzhi. And the Ye Shengtao Memorial and Ye Shengtao Tomb have brought more cultural glamour to the ancient town.

Transport: there are long-distance buses in Shanghai which can reach Luzhi directly. There is No. 18 bus to Luzhi from Suzhou. In Zhouzhuang and Tongli there are also traveling buses.

The fourth town: Nanxun ancient town in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province

Located at the common boundary between Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces, Nanxun is a very famous ancient town in the southern Yangtze River area. There are a lot of historic sites in the town and there were more than 20 gardens of various scales at the height of splendor. Now there are Small Lotus Garden, Ying Garden and Jia Yetang Book-collecting Hall left, etc. Bai Jianlou in Ming Dynasty and the former residences of Zhang Shiming and Zhang Jingjiang in Qing Dynasty are also very special and worth visiting. Nanxun is not only beautiful outside, but also intelligent inside with profound cultural atmosphere.

As an ancient town in Zhejiang Province, Nanxun is different from other ancient towns for there are few old houses, corridors, stone bridges and deep lanes, but many famous gardens in the southern Yangtze River area. Besides most of the styles of these gardens are a combination of Chinese and Western techniques. The most well-known gardens among them are Small Lotus Garden and Jiaye Book-collecting Hall.

Jiaye Book-collecting Hall is actually a mini-sized garden. The lotus pond, rockery and pavilion in the garden show the delicacy and cuteness of gardens in the southern Yangtze River area. The main building of this garden is a book-collecting hall with a western-style cloister. As one of the four biggest book-collecting halls, the hall was built by a xiucai Liu Chenggan in Qing Dynasty from the year 1920 to 1924. There were ever 600000 volumes of books collected here. And nowadays, the hall is used as the ancient books stack of Zhejiang Provincial Library.

Beside the Jiaye book-collecting hall is the Small Lotus Garden. This garden was completed in the same year with Jiaye hall. The owner named the garden as "Small Lotus " just because he admired the Lotus Garden of Zhaomeng Zhaoye very much. There is a lotus pond of 10 mu in the outer circle of the garden. Beside the garden there are a Chinese-style corridor and a lady ' s boudoir of western style with a fastigium on it. Chinese and western architectural styles are perfectly combined. The scenery in Small Lotus Garden is as same as that in other gardens of southern Yangtze River area for there are fan-shaped pavilion, memorial archway, rockery, and bamboo forest. It is very special that there is an ancient tree corridor with dozens of fragrant camphor trees at the west of the garden.

Transport: there are buses direct to Nanxn from Shanghai and Hangzhou.

The fifth town: Xitang town in Jiashan, Zhejiang Province

Xitang, the ancient names as Xutang, Xietang and Pingchuan, has a profound history and culture background. In the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, Xitang was a conflicting common boundary between Wu and Yue States, so it was also called " the root of Wu State and the cape of the Yue State " . With a flat topography and a crisscross water system, Xitang has a very beautiful natural environment. A moon-shaped stone bridge is over the flowing river, and people are rowing below it. With blue tiles and gray walls, the buildings here are surrounded by green water. People can see their shadows in the water outside their homes. The buildings in Ming and Qing dynasties are perfectly preserved here. Among them the roofed corridors and the ancient lanes are especially charming and most famous. Don ' t neglect the common lanes and common people ' s houses among so beautiful scenery for they are actually the most attractive scenes in Xitang. Xitang, deep, graceful and artistic, is like a vertical bamboo flute. It enjoys itself at ease and faces the whole world mildly

The most renowned sight spot of Xitang is a 1000-meter-long roofed corridor. Built along the riverside, the antique corridor has a black-tiled roof. It is integrated with the river and spreads to the far, which reminds people of meditating on the past. Beside the ancient riverway, there are a lot of ancient civilian houses with antique flavors. The winding roofed corridors, the ancient buildings and the causal boats have formed an antique atmosphere for the town. Besides there is a long street in the Stone Skin Lane and the wooden windows of the houses have exquisite sculptures. When you walk on the street, you can' t help thinking of the ancient times.

Transport: First, take train or bus to Jiashan from Shanghai or Hangzhou, and then you may take a bus to Xitang at Jiashan bus station every five minutes.

The sixth town: the ancient town Wuzhen in Tongxiang, Zhejiang Province

Wuzhen is not big, but it is a key place for the land and water transportation. There are netlike riverways, crisscrossing stone bridges, high walls and deep lanes, pavilions and protruding eaves. It is a typical town in the water region. There is all water when you walk in Wuzhen. When you step on the flagstone street, you cannot help feeling that the people and the surroundings are all in water and mist. Wuzhen is an ancient town with a long history. In 1896, the famous writer in the contemporary literature history -- Maodun, was born here. His former residence itself is an ancient house with special features. The house is a Japanese-style building covering 600 square meters. It is said that the house was built with Maodun's remuneration of this well-known work ---" Midnight " . The small town has fostered 64 successful candidates in the highest imperial examinations and 161 successful candidates in the imperial examinations at the provincial level in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Some celebrities, such as Maodun, Shen Zemin and Yan Duhe, have brought more brilliance to this small town.

The typical building is the roofed corridor along the river. It is a typical water village. The corridor is both the shed for passengers and the public place for the local people to spend their spare time.

The civilian houses in Wuzhen are well preserved since they were built in Qing Dynasty. The girders, columns, doors and windows are of great workmanship. Even now, the local people still live in these houses. When you walk along the river, you can see them having dinners and playing mah-jong in their old houses. The culture and customs of the water region are still going on. Those in front of you have formed special landscape pictures in the southern Yangtze River area.

It is very unique that Wuzhen locals like to paint their walls black. It is said that it can protect walls. Since Tongxiang locals call the black color as " wu ", so Wuzhen got its name. The nearby villagers mainly live on paddy planting and silkworm rearing. Villages still keep the folkways and architectural patterns of the southern Yangtze River area. You can still find the antique charm in pictures or poems during the Tongbao Period.

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