Zhouzhuang Ancient Town - Photos by AliceLiu, China, Jiangsu Province, Suzhou

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Zhouzhuang is a town in Jiangsu province, China. It is located within Kunshan county-level city, 30 km southeast of Suzhou.

Zhouzhuang is a popular touristic destination. It is one of the most famous water townships in China, noted for its profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses, the elegant watery views and the strong local colored traditions and customs. It has been called the "Venice of the East".

In the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC), Zhouzhuang was a part of the fief Yaocheng and called Zhenfengli. After being donated to Full Fortune (Quanfu) 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.

In an area of half a square kilometer (124 acres), 60 percent of the Zhouzhuang's structures were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties, which is from 1368 to 1911.

Twin Bridges (Shuang qiao): Zhouzhuang is surrounded and divided by lakes and rivers, 14 stone bridges cross the rivers, showing distinctive views of the water-town. Twin Bridges which comprise Shide Bridge and Yongan Bridge are the most famous and is considered the symbol of Zhouzhuang. Built in Wanli era (1573 - 1619) of the Ming Dynasty, Twin Bridges is in the northeast of the town. Shide Bridge is east-west and has a round arch, while Yongan Bridge is north-south and the bridge arch is square. Crossing the two crisscross rivers (Yinzi Creek and Nabeishi River) and connecting at the middle, Twin Bridges look like a Chinese old-style Chinese key. In 1984, 38 canvases of the notable painter, Chen Yifei, were exhibited in a New York gallery of Armand Hammer, chairman of Occidental Petroleum Corporation. 'Memory of Hometown' which depicts Twin Bridges was one of the items on display and has gained the world's attention for Zhouzhuang. The painting was chosen to be the first-day cover of the United Nations' postage stamp in 1985.

The preceding sight-seeing sites are just a little part of the pretty attractions of Zhouzhuang. Besides these historic sights, the local folklore, traditions and legends of this water township, such as the dragon boat race, the granny tea or the Wansan home-style banquet which are formed from the immemorial civilization and history are also the indispensable elements for an unforgettable tour.

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