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History Culture

Life in Wuzhen, Now & Then

Wuzhen’s distinct natural environment contributes to its unique way of life. In Wuzhen, boats are the most important mode of transportation for locals, because this place is densely covered with waterways and local houses are built along rivers. Boats are widely used for passenger and freight transport. Even peddlers who go from street to street may paddle their small boats up to residents' windows making their transactions on water. Wuzhen still maintains its unique Market on the Water to this day.

Life in Wuzhen is closely related to water. In this water town, the two things that are most agreeable to locals are "skin wraps water” and “water wraps skin”. These two humorous phrases refer to drinking tea in a teahouse and showering at the baths, and it is readily apparent that the locals’ love of drinking tea is in their bones. Historically, the total number of Wuzhen’s teahouses reached more than sixty at its height, and locals maintain their tea drinking customs to the present day. Despite the tribulations of the past, the reason why teahouses remained a staple of local life is that they served as important venues for communication and the resolution of public affairs in times when communications outlets were far less developed than they are today. A teahouse played the role of the town’s information center where news of every type was posted. The significance of a teahouse in Wuzhen resembles that of a café in an ancient western city, and its historical significance is too deep to be supplanted by emerging modern entertainment facilities.

Many ancient traditions are well preserved in Wuzhen to this day, and are poised for further development in new ages. Take drama as an example. Storytelling and ballad singing has been passed down in Wuzhen for centuries, but modern drama will also be staged in Wuzhen before long when Wuzhen hosts an international theater festival. Cultures from all times and all places will meet in Wuzhen to create even more brilliant displays in the future.

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