Xitang is a famous town with thousands of years of history, lying in Jiashan County in Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province. It dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (476 BC-221 BC). The town was a place of strategic importance on the boundary of the Wu and Yue states. Its flat terrain is marked by a quiet, natural environment with rivers running through it. From a bird’s-eye view of the whole town, one sees blue water sparkling almost in every point the eyes touch and reflections of the houses in the water. The quiet water, handsome bridges, and the reflections in the early morning and the rosy sunset, fishing boats and the glistening lights in the evening, form an amazing picture full of a sense of poetry which can only be seen in the south lower reaches of the Yangtze River. People there, whether local residents or visitors, feel that this is fairyland. They even have no idea as to whether people are wandering in the picture or the picture is moving in their hearts.
In the town, there are well-preserved groups of buildings of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) with relatively high artistic quality and research value. It is famous for its large number of covered corridors, lanes and bridges.
The covered corridor is the most well known scene in this town. It is also the most distinctive feature historic it offers compared with other water towns. Consisting of many sections, the whole covered corridor is more than 1,000 meters (about 1094 yards) long, attracting visitors from all over the world with its particular charm. Mostly, it is tile-roofed and built along the riverside, providing shelter for people to avoid either the baking hot sun or the rain. So, while visiting the town, you can never be caught in the rain or exposed to the searing sun. One section of the corridor is the most elegant, with its carved decorative patterns that are praised by tourists as being the height of artistic perfection. High-back davenports are situated on one side of the covered corridor, along the river, where passersby can rest. Walking along the corridor, watching the boats in the river, you will feel drawn into the meditation of the past.
Except the covered corridor the lanes are another eye-catching area in the town. There are many lanes here, long and short, wide and narrow. Some are dark all the year round; some are simply the drain of two families; most of them were the main artery of the town in the old days. Among all the different lanes, the narrowest is about 80cm (about 31 inches) wide and provides space for only one person to pass through at a time. The lanes are like ropes connecting the whole town into an organic net and no matter from which point you start, you can find any other place in the town. Amazing, isn’t it?
The bridges to the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River are like the hyperlink to the internet. They are indispensable not only in terms of convenience but also in terms of beauty. Waterways are interwoven in Xitang, so it is not surprising that many bridges cross over the rivers. Here the creative shapes of bridges are very different from each other. What’s more, beautiful legends about these bridges are still spread among the people. The craftsmanship of these well-preserved bridges is so masterly that they are indeed a feast for your eyes. Exquisite bridges dot the mirror-like rivers one after another, like flaring clusters of diamonds on the neck of the old town.
In the old town, people who live there are not rich, so no newer modern houses have been built there. That’s maybe one of the reasons why the old constructions are preserved as a whole almost without damage. In those archaic houses, besides the culture and value of the houses themselves, there are also displays of cultural relics or woodcarvings or eaves tiles collected by the house owner. To this day there are exhibitions of the ancient rare books of the owners passed down from generation to generation or rubbings from a stone inscription of a famous calligrapher.
On the roofs of some old houses here, the grass is about one chi (about 13 inches) tall. It is said that the spirit of the former owner of the house joins with the grass, making it flourish and blessing the peace and permanence of the house as well as the prosperity of the entire town.
Normal Bus Timetable: In Shanghai, you can wait in the waiting hall of the side of No. 5 gate of Shanghai gymnasium of Xuhui District, the bus to Jiashan County will start on time at 09:00 am in every Saturday and Sunday. In Nanjing, you can wait in the east long-distance bus station and the bus to Jiashan County will set out on time at 14:40 pm.
Note: There are buses from Jiashan County to Xitang about every 10 minutes and the whole journey will take you about 30 minutes.
Special Travel Bus Line: In Shanghai, you can wait in the Travel Collecting and Distributing Center of Shanghai (address: under the No. 5 escalator of Shanghai Stadium (waiting hall of traveling route)). Here the bus will deliver at 08:35 am (every day, including the guide service) and return at 16:30 pm or it will deliver at 09:00 am (only weekend, excluding the guide service) and return at 16:00 pm.
Admission Fee: CNY 100
Opening Hours: Whole day