Traveling in Shanghai and nearby modern cities, you may wonder what has happened to those traditional towns you recall from a movie or a book?  They are not far away and can be reached by a quick bus ride, pending distance.  In the delta of Shanghai, Suzhou,Jiangsu Province and Hangzhou, Zhejiang province lies towns like Tongli, Luzhi, Nanxun, Wuzhen, Xitang, Zhouzhuang.  They have a strong cultural background and a long history ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand years old with ancient architectures built in Song, Ming and Qing dynasties.  There are well reserved lanes, boats, bridges, temples, gardens, and buildings built on and over rivers.  They are named small watertowns in the south of Yangtze River, or Venice like watertowns in the east. 

These towns instantly take you back in time, and each has its own distinguished personalities although they may share watertownviews.  Tongli, close to Suzhou, rich in ancient architecture reflected in its gardens, temples and houses, is nurtured by fifteen rivers and connected in a system of canals and by multiple bridges, with Peace (or Taiping), Luck (Jili) and evergreen (changing) bridges asthe most symbolic.  Luzhi demonstrates its ancient architectures mainly through intriguing waterways and stone bridges of all styles and sizes including multi & solo-arched and twin bridges; Nanxun was once one of the most affluent garden town with lakes decorated with lotus, rockeries, pavilions; with its ancient docks, waterside pavilions, mile long corridors, and the extraordinary scene of bridge in bridge, Wuzhen is known for its natural beauty, while visitors may also enjoy traditional techniques such as woodcarving, weaving and fabric dying.  Xitang distinguishes itself by its stone-slate lanes, ancient houses, boating in the canals as well as stone-slate corridors connected in front of the houses stretching out for miles along the river, which was a relic for trading on the boat; half way between Shanghai and Suzhou lies ZhouZhuang, which is noted for its elegant watery views, distinctive twin bridges, architectural complexs with courtyards, and local-flavored culures and traditions.  In many ways, it simply represents the “Venice in the East.”  While in ZhouZhuang, you may want to take a moment to taste the wine and the pork stews, both are local specialty products.            

If you try to recall a story about a traditional Chinese town from a movie, these watertowns may just be the right ones to bring the scene back to you.