Saturday, November 24, 2012
After several days of rain, the sun came out today for our Grand Gateway outing to China's Number One Water Town of Zhouzhuang. We were very lucky.
On the bus at 7:30 and arrived in Zhouzhuang at 9:15. This time we actually had a guide who spoke English/Chinglish and she had many stories to tell. We learned that many of those fenced off areas, or "swimming pools," in the lakes are not all fish farms, but are also oyster farms for freshwater pearls.The pearls are not perfectly round because each
oyster has several pearls and there is not enough room to let them grow round.
Also, in this area they have the weather to allow three harvests of rice.
Zhouzhuang, China's oldest water town with a history of over 900 years, is called the Venice of China (as are many water towns, including the city of Suzhou). It is also said that one should visit Zhouzhuang to see what Suzhou looked like in the early days. The town became prosperous because its waterways made trade easy, especially with foreigners. After a rich citizen, Zhou Digong, donated his property in 1086 to have a Buddhist temple built, the town was named after him.
Zhouzhuang is now known for its bridges:
There is the story of painter Chen Yifei, who studied in the U.S. He visited Zhouzhuang in 1984 when the only way to get here was by boat. He photographed the Double Bridge, and later in the U.S. he painted a scene with the bridges. The painting was exhibited in the Hammer Gallery in New York, and was obtained by gallery owner Armand Hammer. Late in 1984, Armand Hammer visited China and sent the painting to Deng Xiaoping. Since then Zhouzhuang has been opened to the world.
The Taiping Bridge (first built during the Ming Emperor Jaijing reign of 1522-1566):
A fan window with a view:
The first courtyard had a carved stone doorway no bigger than at the Zhang house, but wait! In the second courtyard was a grander carved doorway!
A gate to the pier made to look like a Chinese coin:
More Zhouzhuang eats:
old dishes of duck, bamboo sprouts, pickled rapeseed stems,
pickled cabbage, chicken feet, and peanuts. One by one the other dishes came out along with a bowl of rice: soup with chicken and white meatballs (three flavor
meatballs?), meatballs that were very light and pinkish in a sauce, a Wansan pork shank,
scrambled eggs, bok choy, water shield, steamed fish (Baisi?), shrimp, puffy
tofu, small fried fish (whitebait?), spicy tofu, and sauteed thin potato strips. The afters were cherry tomatoes and a crispy pastry with sesame seeds.
After lunch we trooped back to the old town for a short boat "cruise."
Turned a corner and passed under Chujia Bridge:
Washing dishes, and washing mushrooms?
The Fishing Museum, where I could actually feel how fine those fishing nets were:
Painting inside of glass:
(Did I show at least 14 bridges?!)