Water Towns outside of Shanghai

Zhouzhuang, west of Shanghai, and Tongli, southeast of Shanghai, seem light years away from the city.  They bear the deep patina of time as much as Shanghai gleams with newness.  It is amazing how timeless and universal the principals of town building are.  The narrow streets and canals and stone buildings are not so different from what one might find in a fine old French, Italian or German village.  But glimpses into the alleys, courtyards and open doors of houses give a strong sense of China.  Mao’s picture still hangs in older people’s homes.  Unfamiliar grains, fruits and vegetables populate the markets.  Old guys relax in a deep squat chatting with each other.

Canal in Tongli has impressive stonework built to last.

Even old people seem tough and hard working.

Guys just hanging out in a shop.

Candy maker pulverizing nuts.

Pulling a taffy-like sweet.

There is a quiet serenity away from the center of Zhouzhuang.

Age seems to make buildings better, not deteriorated.

Gorgeous stonework creeps through the aging stucco.

Paving is extraordinary in these small towns--sometimes massive stone slabs, sometimes delicate and intricate patterns.

Boats are a major means of transport.

What a contrast with the fast pace and crowds of Shanghai!

Much of the work takes place in alleys and courtyards.

I am actually getting to the point I prefer those colorful plastic containers in the market to the traditional straw ones.

Chickens are ubiquitous in rural China.

Mao's picture, once a fixture in most Chinese households, is now relegated to older people's homes.

Thinking about Cultural Identity, Urbanism
Posted July 13, 2010