I think I haven’t told you but a few years ago I went to Shanghai as part of a program sponsored by my graduate school. A visit to Suzhou was included in the trip. Suzhou was great and we had a magnificent time. I will tell you about that experience another time because today I want to inform you about the little surprise I got the day I visited Suzhou.
The highlight of the day was a visit to Luzhi Town. I bet you have never heard about this town. Me neither (before going). See, Luzhi is a water town. Ok, it is more than that. It is considered the first water town in China and its history goes back to more than 1400 years. I was like: “What? A water town in China?”. Believe or not, there are a lot of water towns close to Shanghai. They can be visited as day trips. So, sorry Venice but you are not that original as I thought.
Seriously, I was blown away by the beauty of Luzhi. This is probably one of my favorite aspects of travel. You just don’t know what you are going to find. When you think you have read everything, when you think you are an expert in geography and history, when you are sure about your travel expertise, bam, bam, bam, you hit your face with a glass door, something as beautiful and hidden like Luzhi appears in front of your eyes.
Today, I have the pleasure of showing you this treasure. Come with me. Let’s walk through the streets and canals of this old lady.
Luzhi is located about 14 miles (25 km) from Suzhou. The ancient name of the town is Puli. It consisted of two districts: Puli and Liuzhi. Liuzhi referred to the fact that 6 rivers passed thru the town. With time the name Liuzhi was pronounced as Luzhi and the name was changed later due to this fact.
The town is small (about 1 km squared). The best way (and maybe the only way) to appreciate the surroundings is by foot. Walk and walk until you have covered the whole town. Your eyes are not going to grow tired of so much beauty. The town is full of peaceful canals, old stone bridges and big trees providing shade to pedestrians. But this is a real town. It is fascinating to see all its habitants performing their usual tasks. People selling food, kids playing around and dogs waiting for some scraps. It is the people who have fought hard to keep the history, culture and landscape of their town.
If you go, you are going to notice the abundance of bridges. The stone bridges were built during the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Therefore, there is a great opportunity to observe bridges with different designs and styles.
Of all the bridges, two stand out. The Zhengyang Bridge which is the biggest stone bridge in town and the Dongmei Bridge which is a totally circular bridge. Half of the bridge is under water and the other half is over the water. That is so cool.
You can also visit the Baosheng Temple. It was built in 503 and it contains nine clay arhats that were sculpted in the Tang dynasty. Arhat, in Buddhism, signifies a spiritual practitioner who has realized certain high stages of attainment. These arhats are unique in the whole country. The temple contains additional treasures from other dynasties.
There is also an opportunity to visit Xiao House. In here you can observe the typical way of living of a rich Chinese family during the 19th century. You can observe the dining room, the kitchen, the living room and the patios. There are also exhibitions on how the people dressed on those times.
However, the genuine scenes or real sights are Luzhi’s canals and streets. There is where the masterpiece lays. To be able to do that is worth the trip.
There are other water towns close to Shanghai. For example, you can visit Tongli, Zhujiajiao, Xitang, Wuzhen or Zhouzhuang. I haven’t been to those towns but I am sure they are impressive. It is possible to reach these towns by bus from Shanghai or Suzhou. Private companies offer day tours.
One day I would like to return to the area to explore more. For now, I will be dreaming of Luzhi for a long time.
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