Ancient water town, Xitang, China
14 February 2019
Xitang is a very charming ancient water town about two hours drive from Shanghai. It is known for its cobbled streets and 104 bridges that are built in varying styles and arching over several canals. It was indeed a delightful and relaxing place to visit. We took a short boat ride to appreciate the scenery.
On boarding the boat, I immediately put on around my waist what to me looked like a belt. I asked about the life jacket and wondered why we were being asked to put on a belt and not a life jacket. Everyone laughed at me as the belt was the life jacket. Dahhhh!!!! Can you see it round my waist?
Just strolling down the little alleyways transports you back in time. The ancient lanes are narrow and they connect the waterways and houses. The long covered waterside walkways are said to be unique to Xitang, and distinguishes from other water towns in China.
We visited 3 of its museums – button, root carving and wine making. The museum showcased the development of buttons in China, through the ages and from the early years of producing buttons from used shells to the use of cotton to make buttons for traditional Chinese dress. It was interesting.
Also very interesting was the root carving museum. Actually, this was the most fascinating museum of the three in the town. From small to huge roots of trees were carefully carved into the most unbelievable objects of art. I was so engrossed in looking at the carvings the I forgot to take any photos!!
In the early years of the Ming Dynasty, Xitang was a wine town in the history of China, and remains a speciality of this area. There were displays of wine making equipment from the early years together with the various types of containers used. I tasted and bought some rice wine to bring back to the U.K, naturally.
Our guide told us that the tradition of producing rice wine when a daughter was born, storing it and drinking it on her wedding day continues. Also a tree is planted when a daughter was born and the wood is used to make furniture as a wedding gift from her parents.
Xitang is one of the less travelled places in China, I think, and this was evident. It was peaceful and relaxing. There were very few tourists around, both domestic and international, so you could walk leisurely without fear of being shoved or bumped into. My fear though was getting lost. Despite being given detailed instructions about how to get around, and where to meet, I was still reluctant to venture far down any of the labyrinth of streets. You could get lost easily and no-one spoke English.
A very charming and relaxing little town. I was fascinated by the how well the houses had been carefully preserved and maintained given their age. Dare I say a thousand years old!