Xitang Water Town, lying in Jiashan County in Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province, is a famous town with thousands of years of history. It dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (476 BC-221 BC). The town was a place of strategic importance on the boundary of the Wu and Yue states. Its flat terrain is marked by a quiet, natural environment with rivers running through it. From a bird’s-eye view of the whole town, one sees blue water sparkling almost in every point the eyes touch and reflections of the houses in the water. The quiet water, handsome bridges, and the reflections in the early morning and the rosy sunset, fishing boats and the glistening lights in the evening, form an amazing picture full of a sense of poetry which can only be seen in the south lower reaches of the Yangtze River. People there, whether local residents or visitors, feel that this is a fairyland. They even have no idea as to whether people are wandering in the picture or the picture is moving in their hearts.
In the Xitang Water Town, there are well-preserved groups of buildings of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) with relatively high artistic quality and research value. It is famous for its large number of covered corridors, lanes and bridges.
Covered Corridor in Xitang Water Town
The covered corridor is the most well known scene in Xitang Water Town. It is also the most distinctive feature historic compared with other water towns. Consisting of many sections, the whole covered corridor is more than 1,000 meters (about 1094 yards) long, attracting visitors from all over the world with its particular charm. Mostly, it is tile-roofed and built along the riverside, providing shelter for people to avoid either the baking hot sun or the rain. So, while visiting the town, you can never be caught in the rain or exposed to the searing sun. One section of the corridor is the most elegant, with its carved decorative patterns that are praised by tourists as being the height of artistic perfection. High-back davenports are situated on one side of the covered corridor, along the river, where passersby can rest. Walking along the corridor, watching the boats in the river, you will feel drawn into the meditation of the past.
Lanes in Xitang Water Town
Besides the covered corridor, the lanes are another eye-catching area in Xitang Water Town. There are many lanes here, long and short, wide and narrow. Some are dark all the year round; some are simply the drain of two families; most of them were the main artery of the town in the old days. Among all the different lanes, the narrowest is about 80cm (about 31 inches) wide and provides space for only one person to pass through at a time. The lanes are like ropes connecting the whole town into an organic net and no matter from which point you start, you can find any other place in the town. Amazing, isn’t it?
Bridges in Xitang Water Town
The bridges to the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River are like the hyperlink to the internet. They are indispensable not only in terms of convenience but also in terms of beauty. Waterways are interwoven in Xitang Water Town, so it is not surprising that many bridges cross over the rivers. Here the creative shapes of bridges are very different from each other. What’s more, beautiful legends about these bridges are still spread among the people. The craftsmanship of these well-preserved bridges is so masterly that they are indeed a feast for your eyes. Exquisite bridges dot the mirror-like rivers one after another, like flaring clusters of diamonds on the neck of the old Xitang Water Town.
Old Houses in Xitang Water Town
|Local Bus Station|
In the Xitang Water Town, people who live there are not rich, so no newer modern houses have been built there. That’s maybe one of the reasons why the old constructions are preserved as a whole almost without damage. In those archaic houses, besides the culture and value of the houses themselves, there are also displays of cultural relics or woodcarvings or eaves tiles collected by the house owner. To this day there are exhibitions of the ancient rare books of the owners passed down from generation to generation or rubbings from a stone inscription of a famous calligrapher.
On the roofs of some old houses here, the grass is about one chi (about 13 inches) tall. It is said that the spirit of the former owner of the house joins with the grass, making it flourish and blessing the peace and permanence of the house as well as the prosperity of the entire town.