"Luzhi" Luzhi by mke1963
Luzhi Travel Guide: 8 reviews and 10 photos
Between the Yangtze River and the Taihu Lake lies a large low-lying area which is among the most fertile agrcultural land in China, with thick alluvial soils fed by a million canals and waterways. The countryside is dotted with small towns, many of which have managed to escape the worst ravages of China's 20th century industrialisation.
One of the most attractive is the small town of Luzhi, 18km east of Suzhou. For many expecting tranquil canals and old architecture in Suzhou itself, Luzhi has what was once characteristic of that city: today, most of Suzhou's charms have been bulldozed to create an incerasingly sterile city with its gardens and a few monuments isolated by plazas, malls and gentrified streets.
Yet some places do escape the machinations of local officialdom and are allowed to exist as they have long done, even if it is at the expense of being very clearly defined as tourist places. For the really unspoiled places, you need to get way, way off the beaten track, and get there at least a decade before they get into the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide. Luzhi is already attracting tourists, and the authorities clearly have plans to exploit its charms, so time is not on anyone's side. Within five years, expect the residents to have sold up and sold out, to be replaced by a new breed of commercialised residents charging for everything and anything, with the old replaced by the 'mock old' and the charming replaced by the 'designed to be charming'.
For now, Luzhi is a remarkable little town of about 10,000 people, still heavily reliant on the agriculture of its surrounding fields. As elsewhere in Jiangsu, the high value of the agricultural land combined with the high cost of building roads that need bridges every few hundred metres, means that transport has always been by water, so the main arteries between and in towns has been by widened rivers and artificial canals.
The town was originally called Fuli and was renamed Luzhi in the Tang Dynasty. The heart of the town is built around two canals with a narrow connecting canal running north-south between the two east-west canals: the whole forms the shape of a capital ‘H’ lying on its side. Most visitors will approach the old town from what is crassly designated “the entrance” from where you can walk straight ahead, north, up either side of the narrow canal. The houses crowd tightly in on the wharfside and while many boats are used simply for ferrying visitors around, there are also working boats huddled up together by the stone steps. As could be expected in an area destined to exploit its charms in 21st Century China, most of the shops now simply serve the tourist trade, with cafes, antique shops and souvenir stalls lining the narrow lanes. Take a few steps away from the canal and life returns to normal and you are back in a rural Chinese town, with all the goings-on you can see anywhere.
The canals are bridged by tiny humpback bridges, many of them rather too new for the surroundings and not a stone out of place: a synthetic chocolate-box approach that hopefully China will find tiresome before all the charms of these places are sucked right out. A map at “the entrance” shows the town’s simple layout, but irritatingly doesn’t show the street names. And guess what…the two guidebooks tell you the street-names but don’t have a map. Sigh. Oh China! When will joined up thinking ever arrive?
Originally there were 72 bridges in the town, but now only a small number remain - each a different shape and style.
If in my review and commentary on the town of Luzhi, I seem unusually cynical and sarcastic (to the point of aggravated irritation), do forgive me. Luzhi is definitely worth visiting and most visitors will enjoy themselves just wandering around. The frustration comes from an almost endless succession of things that could have made Luzhi a really fabulous place. The tarting up of every stone and feature into a spectacle of some sort, the total absence of interpretation of the town or its life or history and most of all, the inability of the authorities to think about the visitor experience and how to enrich, educate or entertain visitors. In a professional sense, Luzhi attracts visitors largely despite the efforts of the authorities. When it comes to the definition of “witless” in terms of heritage planning, marketing and interpretation, Luzhi is pretty much it.
One of the most charming aspects of the town is the traditional clothing worn by the women locally. It is not unique as... more travel advice
I can’t make this map any better, given the limitations of VT’s maximum image dimensions, but hopefully it will provide... more travel advice
mke1963's Related Pages
Luzhi Travel Guide
Explore the World
Badges & Stats in Luzhi
- 6 Reviews
- 6 Photos
- 0 Forum posts
- 0 Comments
- See All Stats
- See All Badges (22)
Have you been to Luzhi?Share Your Travels
Latest Activity in Luzhi
Photos in LuzhiSee All Photos (6)
Top 10 Pages
- Top 5 Page for this destination Beijing Intro, 153 reviews, 126 photos, 2 travelogues
- Top 5 Page for this destination Zhangjiajie Intro, 29 reviews, 107 photos, 1 travelogue
- Top 5 Page for this destination Harbin Intro, 49 reviews, 60 photos, 2 travelogues
- Seoul Intro, 57 reviews, 35 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Lanzhou Intro, 27 reviews, 62 photos, 2 travelogues
- Jiayuguan Intro, 36 reviews, 47 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Chengdu Intro, 19 reviews, 62 photos
- Graaff-Reinet Intro, 25 reviews, 49 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Dunhuang Intro, 21 reviews, 43 photos, 2 travelogues
- Top 5 Page for this destination Suwon Intro, 24 reviews, 37 photos