"Water village" Xitang by Ramonq
Xitang Travel Guide: 31 reviews and 100 photos
The pretty little village of Xitang is slowly being discovered by the outside world, as the huge dormitory suburbs of Jiashan encroaches its vicinity. Xitang is one of those water villages located to the west of Shanghai which were once part of an extensive network of towns that flourished during the medieval times when the Grand Canal was the main artery between Beijing and the Yangtze river . These towns and villages have an extensive canal systems that would be the Asian equivalent of Amsterdam or Venice. Xitang remained relatively isolated from modernisation and the village has retained its simple unsophisticated existence unlike the larger canal towns of Tongli and Suzhou. In fact, the more famous Suzhou has developed to be a huge city of 5 million people, while Xitang, in the Zhejiang province, has kept much to itself, maintaining the picturesque streetscapes that Suzhou once had. Xitang has retained many of the ancient traditions that go back to a period as old as China.
This picturesque town where 9 rivers converge, is a photographer's dream. Weeping willow trees drape over the canals, evoking a very calming effect. The Ming and Qing Dynasty temples in town such as the Huguo Grain Temple add to the quintessential Chinese spirit of the place where people still present gifts to the gods in return for good grain harvests. There are covered long corridors with rows of red paper lanterns along the canal, having romantic names such as Misty Rain, that offer glimpses of traditional Chinese homes and lifestyle. The people of Xitang love birds as pets and you will see finches and sparrows inside cages that are hung in the trees or windows. You may hear the scrambling of mahjong tiles as you walk pass the narrow alleyways of Xitang. And the most enduring memories of Xitang are the elegant old stone bridges that arch over the canals like a reclining dragon rising above the water, to allow wooden paddle boats under them. Even though it is only a few hours away from Shanghai, Xitang does feel a thousand miles away! My fondest remembrance of this charming town was sitting by a restaurant with a calming view of a canal traversed by a stone bridge, as I slowly contemplate and sip an ice cold Zheijang beer or two, only to be interrupted by the banging of cymbals and drums as part of a traditional lion dance for the blessing of a new business venture. This most Chinese of all Chinese rituals naturally completes the Xitang experience.
It's easy to romanticise Xitang, as it embodies all that is noble in the Chinese culture through its simple lifestyle and architecture. Chinese poets have waxed lyricals about this place and water-colour painters have captured its essence. But tourism is giving the town a new industry and prosperity. One cannot help what will become of this place if Xitang becomes too popular for its good. Already busloads of Chinese tourists are trampling across the town's more than 100 stone and wooden bridges. Chinese movies and teledramas are being shot in Xitang because it is ideal for a stereotypical Chinese setting. In fact, a scene from Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible 3 was filmed here. Hollywood has arrived in Xitang and tourists are gradually increasing. Some of the old houses are being transformed into inns and restaurants to accommodate the visitors who want to stay longer. Thankfully most of the tourists stay in Shanghai or Huangzhou and only have a quick stopover in Xitang. But do try to stay overnight in Xitang and watch the moon mirrors its reflection on the canal, as you dine on traditional Chinese fish recipes which have been handed down from generations when Xitang was a quiet fishing village. Enjoy the traditional Chinese ambience in Xitang!
- Pros:Pleasant canal town
- Cons:not as easily accessible
- In a nutshell:Medieval Water Village
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