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Zhouzhuang

Zhouzhuang, situated in Kunshan City, only 30 kilometers southeast of Suzhou, is a collection of beauty of China's water town. In the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), Zhouzhuang was a part of the fief Yaocheng and called Zhenfengli. After being donated to Full Fortune Temple by Zhou Digong, a very devout Buddhist, in 1086 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127), Zhouzhuang got its present name as a memorial of the donor.

Zhouzhuang is famous for its charming bridges, profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses and the strong local colored traditions and customs. The town is surrounded by rivers as Nanbeichi, Houxiang, Youcheyang and Zhongshi. Many stone bridges are built over them, linking up the households on both sides of every stream, and the most famous is Twin Bridges. Twin Bridges, built in Wanli era (1573 - 1619) of the Ming Dynasty, comprise Shide Bridge and Yongan Bridge and is considered the symbol of Zhouzhuang. Crossing the two crisscross rivers and connecting at the middle, Twin Bridges look like a Chinese old-style Chinese key. Chen Yifei, a young artist residing in the U.S. created a picture of Memories of Hometown based on the Twin Bridge in 1984. The picture was used on a first day cover issued by the UN and has gained the world's attention for Zhouzhuang. The other two bridges, Fuan Bridge and Zhenfeng Bridge are also notable. Fuan Bridge, built in 1355 during the Yuan Dynasty, is the consummate combination of the single-arch bridge and the bridge towers, while Zhenfeng Bridge, rebuilt in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, connects the Zhenfeng Lane and Xiwan Street.

Zhouzhuang is also well known for its simple but unique architecture, which stands well up through 900 years. more than 60 percent of the residential houses were built during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, consisting of nearly 100 classic courtyards and 60 carved brick archways. A notable architect, Luo Zhewen, described it "a treasure of China". The representative buildings include the houses of Shen and Zhang, the Milou Tower, Ye Chucang's Former Residence, Chengxu Taoist Temple and Quanfu Temple.

Shen's House is located at the southeast side of Fuan Bridge. It was built in 1742 by the descendant of Shen Wansan, the first millionaire of Jiangnan (South of Yangtze River) in the early Qing Dynasty. It consists of seven courtyards, five archways, more than 100 rooms of different size along two sides of a 100-m-long axis road, covering an area of 2000 sq.m, offering a unique traditional Chinese architectural style. It is divided into three sections and each one is connected by arcades and aisles.

Zhangs House is located at the south of the Twin Bridge on Beishi Street. It has 6 courtyards and more than 70 rooms, covering more than 1800 sq.m. With Ruojing River flowing through, it is a dapper and graceful residential house and is an important cultural relic under protection of the provincial government now.

Milou Tower perches next to Zhenfeng Bridge which is at the southwest corner of Zhouzhuang. It is famous for being a rallying place of the literators in old times. Numerous poets, songs and stories about Milou Tower are wide spread and make it more charming.

Ye Chucang Residence, located on Xiwan Street facing north, is the residence of Ye Chucang (1887-1946), who was a poet of the South Society and a statesman. Chengxu Taoist Temple, built during 1086 - 1093 of the Song Dynasty and also known as Sanctity Hall, is one of the most famous Taoist temples in Wuzhong Region.

Moreover, Zhouzhuang boasts rich cultural resources like granny tea, Wansan home-style banquet and such local customs as fast boating.

 
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