Paragons of pleasure

Updated: 2013-10-01 09:47

By Zhang Zixuan (China Daily)

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2. Xitang, Zhejiang province

Paragons of pleasure

Teahouses on riverbanks are the best places to experience the relaxing life in Xitang.

Paragons of pleasure

Crisscrossing streams are the life pulse of 1,000-year-old Xitang in Zhejiang province.

Tom Cruise stayed in Xitang for a whole week in 2005 to shoot for Mission Impossible 3. Movie director J.J. Abrams chose Xitang as the setting for his film because he believed it represented real China.

The 1,000-year-old town has not changed much since the Hollywood star spent a week there eight years ago.

Xitang is part of Jiashan county in Zhejiang. It is divided into eight areas by nine river channels, which are connected by 27 bridges and hundreds of boats.

Xitang is different from other old Chinese towns because it has covered walkways along all the rivers. In Xitang, pedestrians don't have to worry about getting wet in the rain or suffering sunburn.

The first villages along the rivers were established during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). During the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties, the villages grew bigger and thus created the right conditions for the setting up of large markets. And since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Xitang has been an important manufacturing and business center.

In Xitang, there is hardly any space among houses because land has always been precious in this river-fed area. No wonder, Xitang boasts of some 120 winding alleys, the longest being more than 100 meters and the narrowest being less than 1 meter.

If you look up while navigating one of the narrow alleys in Xitang, you will see what has come to be known as a "one-inch sky".

Xitang residents are known for their traditional and quiet lifestyle and for the delicious fair they cook up in their kitchens, such as steamed pork wrapped in lotus leaf, duck wonton pot, spiced salt pumpkin and stinky tofu.

Paragons of pleasure