EXPEDITIONS: Zhouzhuang is more than the Venice of the East. It’s a wonder in its own right.

I have always been fascinated by Chinese culture and history, so when I had the opportunity to visit the water town of Zhouzhuang, I was thrilled. From the moment I stepped off the bus, I was struck by the beauty of the town. The streets were lined with traditional Chinese architecture, and the canals sparkled in the sunlight.

One of the first things I did was take a boat ride along the canals. As we glided through the water, I marveled at the ancient buildings and bridges that lined the banks. The boat driver pointed out some of the most famous landmarks, such as the Twin Bridges and the Zhang House. It was amazing to see these structures up close and to imagine what life was like in Zhouzhuang centuries ago.

After the boat ride, I decided to explore the town on foot. I enjoyed wandering through the narrow alleys, peering into shops and restaurants. I was especially drawn to the food stalls, where vendors were selling all kinds of delicious treats. I couldn’t resist trying some of the local specialties, such as steamed buns and rice cakes. The flavors were unlike anything I had ever tasted before.

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting the Zhang House. As I stepped inside, I was immediately transported back in time. The house was filled with antiques and artifacts from the Qing Dynasty, and the architecture was stunning. I marveled at the intricate carvings on the walls and the ornate furniture. It was incredible to think that people had lived in this house for generations, and that it had been preserved so well.

Zhang House interior. (CREDIT: Timothy M. Ciccone.)
DID YOU KNOW? Pollution has had a significant impact on the canals of Zhouzhuang in recent years, threatening the delicate ecosystem and the town's tourism industry. Heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers in nearby farms, as well as industrial pollution, have led to high levels of pollutants in the water. This has affected the quality of the water and the health of the aquatic ecosystem, including the fish and plants that rely on the canals for survival. Efforts are underway to address these issues, including increasing awareness and promoting sustainable practices to protect the canals and ensure their continued vitality.

Another memorable experience was visiting one of the local temples. The air was heavy with the scent of incense, and the sound of chanting filled my ears. I watched as worshippers lit candles and made offerings to the gods. It was a powerful reminder of the rich spiritual tradition that is woven into the fabric of Chinese society.

As the day drew to a close, I felt a sense of contentment and peace. Zhouzhuang had captured my heart with its beauty and history, and I knew that I would never forget my visit. As I boarded the bus to head back to my hotel, I felt grateful for the opportunity to experience this amazing town and to learn more about Chinese culture.

WORDS: Davide Fagano.

IMAGE GALLERY CREDITS: Mattias Hill; livepine; ngader; EditQ; Caitriana Nicholson.

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