7 Water Villages That Are Some of China’s Most Charming Ancient Towns

Chinese ancient garden with pond in autumn, Suzhou, China.

When Chen Xiao was young, he went fishing one day at a pond outside the city. (Image: Donkeyru via Dreamstime)

There is an old saying in China: “Up in heaven is paradise, down on earth are Suzhou and Hangzhou.” These two cities are famous for their enchanting scenery, with lakes, pavilions, well-designed gardens, and beautiful silk products. Nearby are many ancient water villages, where most of the buildings are centered around lakes, rivers, canals, or ponds.

7 of the most well-known water villages in China

1. Zhouzhuang 

Zhouzhuang lies between Lake Tai and Shanghai, and it was built in 1086. It is surrounded by water with traditional houses built on the waterways. Boats and decorated bridges add color to this small village.

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One of the many historical bridges in the water-town of Zhouzhuang, China lit up at night and reflecting in crystal clear water.
One of the many historical bridges in the water town of Zhouzhuang, China lit up at night and is reflected in crystal clear water. (Image: Curioustravelers via Dreamstime)

2. Xitang

Xitang has a unique style with its narrow stone streets and famous ceilinged corridors that attract many visitors. The family hotels are also special. Silk and handmade fans make good souvenirs.

Clay teapot and cups sit on a wooden tray on top of a table next to the scenic waterways in Xitang, one of China's watertowns.
The family hotels in Xitang are special. (Image: Wanxingye via Dreamstime)

3. Tongli

Tongli is surrounded by five lakes, including Lake Tongli, which is connected by a network of canals fed from the confluence of three rivers. Most of the buildings here are situated along waterways, hence its nickname “Little Venice of the Orient.”

A tourist boat moored on the water canals within Tongli Town scenic area in Jiangsu Province China.
Since most of the buildings in Tongli are situated along waterways its nickname is ‘Little Venice of the Orient.’ (Image: Tempestz via Dreamstime)

4. Luzhi

Luzhi lies west of Shanghai and has a history of 2,500 years with many relics. It is one of the best-preserved ancient water villages in the area, and visiting there is said to be like walking back in time.

A Chinese gazebo surrounded by weeping willow trees on a small lake within the Luzhi Ancient Town scenic area on a sunny day in Wuzhong China.
Luzhi is one of the best-preserved ancient water villages in the area. (Image: Tempestz via Dreamstime)

5. Zhujiajiao

Zhujiajiao is called the “Pearl of Shanghai.” You can take a boat through this ancient town to see some of its Ming and Qing Dynasty houses. If you only have a short time in Shanghai, Zhujiajiao is a great place to visit.

China traditional tourist boats at Zhujiajiao town with boat and historic buildings near Shanghai, China.
If you only have a short time in Shanghai, Zhujiajiao is a great place to visit. (Image: Woraphon Banchobdi via Dreamstime)

6. Mudu

Mudu is over 2,500 years old, and it was built where a river was blocked by a large number of woods, hence its name, which means “woods block.” It is the only ancient garden village in China, and there are over 30 private gardens from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

A bridge with Chinese-style pagoda over the waterway in Mudu, China.
Mudu is the only ancient garden village in China. (Image: Mengzhang via Dreamstime)

7. Anchang

Anchang was built in the Northern Song Dynasty, and it has well-preserved ancient houses from the Ming and Qing dynasties. As a typical water town, it is a romantic destination for weddings and honeymoons. Anchang was the hometown of Shaoxing private consultants and solicitors in the Qing Dynasty.

Sidewalk cafe full of customers along a waterway with a man poling a boat in Anchang, China.
Anchang is a typical water town. (Image: Ruikang Xu via Dreamstime)

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