Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism

A Must-visit Old Town in Jiangnan in Early Autumn

This is a place where the passing time has left its marks in every corner…on the courtyard walls, the doors and windows, the stone paths, the little bridges and the gurgling water in front of the doors. Time goes by in a flash, but the sights in front your eyes seem unchanging like a painting. Qiantong Old Town, in this painting-like setting, comes near you across time. 

Qiantong – A Small Town with the Most Authentic Confucianism in East of Zhejiang Province

In Shaoding Era of Southern Song Dynasty, the villagers’ ancestor Tong Huang, an official then, firstly moved to Qiantong. On one of his trips, he came across this place with good feng shui, “surrounded by mountains and rivers but not blocked, capable of keeping wind and water”, by accident. Therefore, he moved his entire family here from Huangyan, Taizhou and settled in front of the Huiming Temple. Hence, the place was named Qiantong. 

Inside the old town, there are 157 courtyard houses with black tiles and white walls. As representatives of the architectural style throughout the East of Zhejiang Province, the houses retain the decor of Ming and Qing dynasty and have delicate brick, wood and stone carvings, showcasing the unique charm of the “hometown of five craftsmen”.

The tall and sturdy pillars in the courtyards, the unique seahorse beams, numerous genealogy books, longevity panel screens, imperial decree of emperors, plaques, antithetical couplets, ancestor portraits, ancient books…poems on the doors, windows and plaques, family mottos and auspicious sayings…All these reflect the profound cultural charm of the dwellings in eastern Zhejiang and the prosperous big families in the past. 

Qiantong is well-known for the unique layout of the well-preserved residential houses dating back to Ming and Qing dynasty. Water from White Creek has been channeled to the village and flows around all houses which are connected by small bridges and winding paths. The residential houses, academies and ancestral halls all have their own beauty. The old streets, pavilions and memorial archways complement each other. The pebble paths, ancient courtyards, ancient wells, carved stone windows and the Bagua water system can all be perfect backgrounds for photography. 

Compared with Zhouzhuang and Wuzhen, it keeps a much lower profile. Being a water town as well, the clear water runs around every household, as the ground in the village slopes slightly to the east. The 5-mile-long canal in Qiantong is essential to its beautiful landscape of “small bridges, flowing water and houses".

Because the flowing water comes from the mountain stream, it is very clear and turbulent. The villagers living by water all have picked a stone slab in front of their houses, which functions as a bridge and pier. The women are busy washing and the children are catching fish and shrimps. It is such a harmonious scene. 

Qiantong is known for the peculiar layout of the residential houses. Tourists get lost easily in Qiantong. They must walk along the Bagua water system to decode the labyrinth. This adds to the fun of exploring Qiantong.

— Experience the Daily Life of the Ancient Town —

Staying in a hostel inside the ancient town, you will feel the extraordinary quietness. You won’t feel bored after you wake up from a good night’s sleep, as the ancient town has a lot to offer. You will always find something interesting in its daily life. The traditional ways of making tofu and weaving bamboo are popular experiences in the ancient town.

Handicraft: Intangible Cultural Heritage

In the Handicrafts Experience Hall inside the ancient town, inheritors of bamboo weaving, which is provincial intangible cultural heritage, will introduce authentic skills of bamboo weaving, wood carving, and root carving to visitors. 

Food: Three Treasures of Qiantong

The "Three Treasures of Qiantong" are very famous. They are old tofu, tofu puff and smoked tofu. In the ancient town, there is also a tofu making experience hall. If you have patience, you can experience the whole process of making tofu, which will take about 2-3 hours. As for whether you can master the skill, it will depend on how well you understand it.

— Seclusion Life in Qiantong —

Everyone who has been to Qiantong will have his/her own memory of the ancient town. Qiantong has so many intriguing cultural elements. After being in the urban jungle full of cold steel and concrete for a long time, you may consider settling down in this ancient town. Here, you will feel that the dark blue bricks and gray tiles, the small bridges and the flowing water, the carved beams and painted pillars are very warm and welcoming.