Saturday, June 4, 2011


On the Saturday that I stayed in China, my friend Jerry took me to Zhouzhuang (Water Village), where he said I could get some nice photos.  It is an old town that has been kept traditional, and is based around rivers and canals so there are lots of bridges and boats, as well as a temple with water gardens.

There are seven entrances to the town - I don't know if they are all as ornate as this one.  Outside the gate is the modern part of the town, and tourist welcome centre, but when you walk through, you are transported into a world of narrow streets, and old buildings, with not a single bike or scooter in sight.

The streets were certainly very narrow.  It would be a case of 'Love thy neighbour - or else...'  No opportunity to ignore them when their bedroom window is only a few feet away from yours!

Jerry pointed out that every doorway had a piece of wood across the threshold, to keep out unwelcome visitors such as rats.  The height of the wood was a status symbol, with richer families having one perhaps a foot high, while poorer families had one maybe half that, or less.  In the temple, later in the day, he also told me that men are supposed to step over the piece of wood with their left foot first, and women with their right foot, though I think that only applied to the temple.

Here is one of the many bridges in Zhouzhuang.  This one is called Shide Bridge, and is connected to another bridge (Yongan Bridge) running at 90 degrees to it, just out of shot on the right hand side.  The two bridges together are known as the Twin Bridges, and are a trademark of Zhouzhuang.  I liked the way the calm water reflected the arch and made a full circle with a view through, a bit like the circular holes in walls that are seen in many of the Chinese gardens.

When we came back across these two bridges later in the day, it was absolutely heaving with people trying to force their way through in both directions... it took about 5 mins to squeeze from one side to the other.  I'm surprised nobody went over the side and into the water - you can see that the sides are only knee high!  Fearing for both my and my camera's safety, I stayed in the middle of the flow, and held the camera above my head - it was a huge crush, and quite a scary experience!

We visited two very traditional homes, of two very rich and powerful families - Shen House and Zhang House.  Both had formal reception rooms that were laid out in the same way, with seats for the master and his wife either side of a large table, and then seats for their guests, and so on.  The whole room could be secretly observed from above through a sliding panel.  The purpose of this was for the daughters of the house to be able to see their suitors when they came to visit, without the suitor seeing them - which was forbidden.

An interesting thing about the roofs that I noticed is that all of the end tiles are decorated.  While I was studying roof tiles, Jerry gave me another interesting fact about roofs.  The height of your roof in comparison with your neighbour was also a status symbol.  To show that you were better off than the Joneses next door, not only would you have a higher timber across the threshold, but your roof would have to be slightly higher too.

I'll post some of the pictures from Chengxu Temple in Zhouzhuang next time

Happy Snappin'

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