"Travel Notes from Zhujiajiao" Zhujiajiao by gdilieto
Zhujiajiao Travel Guide: 24 reviews and 98 photos
At the time I visited Zhujiajiao I knew already what to expect (as well as what to not) about those water towns too often referred to as "Venice of the Orient". There is arguably nothing in any of those sleepy villages that compares to the grandeur and magnificence of Venice, still they are a worthwhile break from the city if you manage to beat, in weekend days the crowd, add in summer months the heat.
I guess Zhujiajiao owes all its fortune to its proximity to Shanghai. Compared to the two other water towns I have visited - Zhouzhuang and Xitang - Zhujiajiao is less pictoresque than Zhouzhuang and less charming than Xitang; still, at an easy 40-minute drive from downtown Shanghai, Zhujiajiao is the most-conveniently located and easiest accessed water town from the big city. Tagged in many guidebooks as a "tourist trap" (my Insight Guides says: "the situation is so bad that it [Zhujiajiao] does not warrant a mention in this guidebook"), its character is certainly touristy but not necessarily worth ruling it out from your itinerary as if you adventure beyond the tourist trail you will still find examples of genuine rural life.
Zhujiaojiao is lined up with souvenir shops and restaurants all offering the same food and merchandise. Food is "local" and if you are coming from oversea you will have to compromise. Scattered around just a handful of small western-style coffee shops. Worth a mention, an eatery at one of the entrance in town run by a friendly French guy looking like an Irish, speaking Mandarin like a Chinese and serving crepes, quiches and terribly-looking pizza. He and his friends also run a guesthouse in the village. The Daqing Post Office (the only historical post office site in East China) hosts a small but well-run museum. An old woman skilled in the art of papercutting will cut with scissors in a hole-in-the-wall shop your profile on a sheet of paper.
Zhujiajiao has an Official Tourism Website (in the "Food" page you will find photos of local delicacies you will find on sale in shops throughout the village) or the TravelChinaGuide's Zhujiajiao page is also a good source of common tourist information.
In the landscape of the Yangtze River Delta Water Towns, I like Xitang better but if you only have chance to travel to Zhujiajiao I would not rule it out on the base of the tourist trap reputation. Few hours to half-a-day is enough and it is no worth overnighting here. If you want to overnight to enjoy the atmosphere of a water villages at night, I would suggest again Xitang which is more intriguing and better equipped for an overnight stay.
Chinese paper cutting is a folk art with 2000 years of history. It is believed it started as a hobby among nobles in Han Dynasty when paper was first invented in the 1st century. The art evolved into a folk culture over the centuries, as paper became more accessible, with works often used to decorate homes as well as for ritual purposes. Today, paper cuttings are mainly used as decoration. During the Chinese Festivals like the New Year, paper cuttings are used to adorn entrances of buildings and homes to bring good luck and fortune. Most of the traditional graphics are symbols of luck and prosperity as well as reflections of daily folk lives. Today, western images and modern art touches are also found. Most-traditional paper colors are black and red, with red - representing health and prosperity - the color of choice during Chinese Festivals. The art remains popular, particularly in the rural areas, where paper cuttings are usually made by women. This website provides good info to learn more along with some images of works by featured artists.
- Pros:Easily and conveniently reached from Shanghai
- Cons:Less intriguing than Xitang or Zhouzhuang
- In a nutshell:A second-tier water town at the easiest access from Shanghai
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