As one of the eight ancient capitals of China, Hangzhou's history can be traced back to the Neolithic Age or New Stone Age and even though Hangzhou is now a prosperous modern city, trails of its glorious history are still evident in the many ancient towns unaffected by today’s modernization.
It is those same towns that have withstood the ages for hundreds, if not thousands of years, remaining almost intact and retaining a genuine atmosphere of antiquity that is waiting for you to explore.
Tangqi is located in the north of Hangzhou City approximately twenty kilometers away from downtown Hangzhou. With the Grand Canal (京杭大运河) flowing through it Tangqi has been the waterway portal of Hangzhou for centuries.
Before the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD) Tangqi was no more than a fishing village, it was only later in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD), due to the broadening of the Grand Canal, that it developed into a flourishing town. In the Ming (1368-1644 AD) and Qing (1644-1912 AD) Dynasties Tangqi reached its height, ranking first in the "Ten Famous Towns of Jiangnan Region". With such a glorious history this town has been blessed with abundant cultural heritage and historical relics.
◆ Guangji Bridge (广济桥) was built about five hundred years ago and is the only seven-arched bridge to be preserved on the Grand Canal.
◆ Tangqi, historically known for its loquat, holds a Loquat Festival every year. This annual event takes place from late May to late June and attracts countless tourists.
Dadou Road Historic Block(大兜路历史街区)
Dadou Road Historic Block, covering 95,000 sq m, is positioned along the Grand Canal and refers to the area from Shixiang Road (石祥路) to Daguan Road (大关路). Its history can be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) when it used to be Hangzhou’s trade center. Now it has developed into a historic culture and foods themed block that features Qing-style architecture, the traditional life-style of Hangzhou people and local refreshments. Flagstone walkways, tall phoenix trees and red lanterns flanking the banks of the Grand Canal have increased the area's charm even more.
◆ National Silk Warehouse (国家厂丝储备仓库)
This includes 10 buildings and has become a hotel combining traditional Chinese health culture with ancient canal culture.
◆ Xiangji Temple Xiangji Temple was built in 960 AD during the first year of the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127 AD). It is the most famous temple in Gongshu District (拱墅区) and is the distribution center of pilgrims to Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺) and Tianzhu Temple (天竺寺).
◆ Folk Living Zone (民居)
In this zone tourists get to see houses dating from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) and the early period of the Republic of China (1912–1949).
Xiaohe Street Historic Block (小河直街)
Xiaohe Street Historic Block, located north of Hangzhou, is positioned at the confluence of the Grand Canal (京杭大运河), Xiaohe River (小河) and Yuhangtang River (余杭塘河). It is called Xiaohe Straight Street as it runs parallel to the Grand Canal in a straight line and its history can be traced back to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) when, at that time, it was the land and water transportation center for goods.
Picturesque scenery, ancient architecture, flagstone walkways and indigenous residents who preserve folk customs and traditional life style, all perfectly reflect the characteristics of Xiaohe Street Historic Block as a typical water town. However, Xiaohe Street Historic Block has its own style as the architecture here is mainly built of concrete on the first floor and wood on the second. Normally the first floor is used for business and the second for living and on almost every sunny morning couples can be seen everywhere choosing any one of the ancient backdrops to shoot their traditional Chinese or western style wedding photos.
The name Longmen (龙门) literally means the dragon gate in Chinese. Longmen Ancient Town is a landmark tourist spot along the Fuchun River – Thousand-islet Lake National Scenic Area (富春江—新安江—千岛湖国家级风景名胜区) and is situated on the southern bank of Fuchun River in Fuyang (富阳) about 50 kilometers away from downtown Hangzhou.
Longmen Ancient Town is well-known as the hometown of the famous warlord Sun Quan (孙权) who was the emperor of the Three Kingdoms' State of Wu (184 – 280) and a main character in Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义) – one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. Around 90 percent of the inhabitants of the town are surnamed Sun (孙) who are said to be the descendants of Sun Quan.
◆ The town still retains Ming-or Qing- Style building complexes among which are ancestral halls, homes, pagodas and memorial arches – most of which have a history of over three hundred years. The best known ones include Hundred Flower Hall (百花厅) and Hundred Lion Hall (百狮厅).
◆ Behind the ancient town is a mountain called Longmen Mountain. With an altitude of 1,067 meters it is the highest of Fuyang’s mountains.
◆ The local theatrical performance Bamboo Horse Dance (竹马舞) is a unique dance for its portrayal of Sun Quan.
Meicheng lies in Jiande (建德市) which is only a two-hour drive from Hangzhou. With a history of 1,700 years it is a historic town with abundant cultural heritages like that of Liuhe Ancient Well (六合古井) and Jade Spring Temple (玉泉寺).
Standing at the confluence of the Xin’an River (新安江), the Lan River (兰江) and the Fuchun River (富春江), Meicheng is also well-known for its enchanting natural scenery. Facing the picturesque Xin’an River it is positioned against Wulong Mountain (乌龙山) with two towering pagodas, one to the south and the other to the north.
It has a deep connection with many famous Chinese classics like ‘Outlaws of the Marsh’ (水浒传) – one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature and ‘Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio’ (聊斋志异).
Heqiao Ancient Town is located in Lin’an (临安市) approximately 50 kilometers away from Hangzhou. Adjacent to Liuxi River (柳溪江) Heqiao Ancient Town is blessed with abundant natural resources which include mountains, valleys, streams, lakes, waterfalls, stones, wild animals and plants.
Heqiao Ancient Town used to be a commercial center in western Zhejiang Province and was dubbed the “Little Shanghai” during the 1930s. Like all the other ancient towns the glorious history left Heqiao with a large number of ancient buildings. Most of these buildings are black-and-white two-storey houses built with stone and wood and the inhabitants still retain their traditional life-style, like washing their clothes and dishes in the stream and preparing Dongyancai (冬腌菜) (a preserved Chinese cabbage dish popular in winter). It is the perfect place to appreciate the ancient and typical life-style of water towns.
Xinye Ancient Village (建德新叶村)
Situated in Daciyan Town (大慈岩镇), Jiande County, Xinye Ancient Village (新叶村) is dubbed as “China’s largest open-air museum of Ming and Qing-era Folk Residences” and many say is a sparkling gem engraved on the face of eternity. Built during the illustrious Southern Song Dynasty in the year of 1219 this weathered retreat lures visitors because of the 200 well-preserved civil residences, 16 exquisite ancestral halls, timeworn pagodas as well as the famous archaic ancestral worship ceremony which is still vibrant today.
Other water towns like Wuzhen (乌镇) in Tongxiang City (桐乡市), Xitang (西塘) in Jiaxing City (嘉兴市) and Nanxun (南浔) in Huzhou City.
Spring is here and so is the 2017 “Intoxicating Springtime” – Hangzhou Outdoor Leisure Season which, in the following three months, will provide the city with over 50 springtime outdoor experiences and tour itineraries. With six themes to choose from such as child-parent, flower viewing, games and sports, spring couldn’t be livelier.
The annual time for picking Longjing green tea leaves, one of the top ten renowned teas of China, has begun in Hangzhou and everywhere tea farmers are now busy picking and hand frying the famous leaves. If you wanted to take a sneak peek at how the farmers meticulously pick their verdant leaves from bushes nestled in undulating hills, or if you wanted to sample, at first hand, this year’s Longjing variety, then head to the following three tea villages which are known for their tea, tea culture and tea-related tourist attractions.