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Travel to China: Zhouzhuang

The guide books say that Zhouzhuang, between Shanghai and Suzhou, is an unspoiled example of the kind of town that once dotted the Yangtze Delta.  The Will to Believe is strong, but, as usual, if something's too good to be true it's probably untrue.  Zhouzhuang these days is a tourist production, crowded with visitors and wrapped with, shall we say, out-of-costume neighbors.  Can you get a sense of what the place was like?  Probably better from these pictures than from visiting the place.

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China: Zhouzhuang picture 1

A large parking lot and high-capacity ticket booths lie a few hundred yards behind the camera as we walk into... well, right up front you get the idea.  Cultural Shows can't be far ahead.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 2

Keep walking!  This is a cold winter day, which explains the sparse crowd.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 3

If you had a car, this is where you'd stop it.  Never mind: keep walking.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 4

Ah!  So this is what it's about.  A bit of Bruges, a bit of Venice: another town built in the water.  Attractive.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 5

The boat might give you pause, but overlook it.  People do live in this place.

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Some in houses that have been around awhile.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 7

There's a range of bridge types.  Post and lintel here.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 8

Arched here.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 9

There are vehicle-free paths, too.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 10

Some are very narrow, but cars don't have to squeeze through.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 11

Enough atmosphere.  It's time to play your part and shop.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 12

At the least, you can buy a ticket for a boat ride. 

China: Zhouzhuang picture 13

Tourist fleet, tied up at the edge of town.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 14

Think Vermeer could do something with this?

China: Zhouzhuang picture 15

Slack season; time for repairs.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 16

But even in winter a good number of tourist boats ply the canals.  ("Ply" is one of those nautical terms that we salts use.  It comes with a blue cap.)

China: Zhouzhuang picture 17

Suspiciously easy work.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 18

Could it be that each boat has a hook grabbing an underwater chain that pulls everybody along with just the right spacing?  (Why such sarcasm?  Well, you go expecting one thing and find you've been played; puts you in a bad humor.)

China: Zhouzhuang picture 19

Want to see real Zhouzhouang?  How about dredgers.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 20

How about the edge of town?  See that bridge?

China: Zhouzhuang picture 21

Workers going home over it.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 22

Home.

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Not quite so colorful.

China: Zhouzhuang picture 24

Don't knock an illusion upon which incomes depend?  OK: we'll beat a retreat to the handsome museum created in town from this canal-side home. 


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