China's unique water towns

(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

China had towns with a population of more than a million people hundreds of years before this was possible in Europe.  One of the "secrets" for being able to accommodate and feed so many people every day was without doubt the intensive use of waterways,- both natural and the man made system of canals -, which made it possible to transport food and goods straight into the heart of the cities.
The farmers could simply load their boats at the production sites, and via the canal system carry fresh vegetables and rice directly to the marketplaces within the towns.  No need to rely on heavily congested roads, which in the wet periods would be a nightmare of mud and traffic jams.

In many cases the canal system was connected to the longest man made canal of all,- the Grand Canal -, which is almost 1800 kilometer long, - connecting Beijing with Hangzhou - - -
Needless to say,- the towns that developed along those canals grew prosperous-, and in addition they are indeed VERY picturesque to look at, with their intensive use of canals instead of roads.
In some areas of China it really looks as if there is actually more water than dry land, and to this day this system of canals and rivers is still in use as the imperishable "road" system it has been for thousands of years.

One such water town is WUZHEN, which has been around since the Tang dynasty for more than 1000 years ago!
Another one is ZHOUZHUANG, - founded for over 900 years ago-, with more than half of its buildings still intact from the Yuan, Ming and Quing dynasties - - -
No wonder that the paintings you can buy with motives from water towns most likely are inspired from  Zhouzhuang and Wuzhen, which seem to be favorites with Chinese artists, who loves to hang around the canals and do their paintings.

Here are some of my many impressions from trips to the water towns of Wuzhen and Zhouzhuang done in September 2002.

Please enjoy - - -

Click  HERE  for pictures from WUZHEN - -

(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

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Click  HERE  for pictures from ZHOUZHUANG - -

(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

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Updated:  June 4. 2003