Top 10 Old Towns in China

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Plan your China tour? China’s 30-year urbanization drive has produced a great number of booming towns and super cities. Urbanization has been a necessary condition for achieving sustainable development. But many towns and cities in China have their own ambitious city planning and development programs.

They sometimes compete each other for bigger, greater and stronger towns or cities. More and more towns and cities look alike in terms of shoppping malls, public parks, buildings and etc. After traveling around, you won’t have deep impression of the these towns and cities which closely resemble each other.

To curb the urban assimilation drive, in the past 30 years great efforts have been made by the local governments at different levels to have overall city construction plans and protect traditional elements especially in old towns and cities, balancing development and protection.

These exotic and charming old towns in China have still kept their own traditions and cultures, which have attracted more and more tourists home and abroad, greatly enhancing their understanding of a real China.

The top 10 old towns here are carefully hand-picked from the numerous old and historical towns in China. If you want to experience a real and genuine China, the top 10 list of the old towns in China will offer you the guidance in planning your own China tour.

1. Pingyao (Time Tunnel) 平遥
Location: Pingyao is a small town, about 80km southwest of Taiyuan in central Shanxi Province. Pingyao has plenty of cultural relics. The city wall was first built during the Zhou Dynasty (256 B.C.) and was expanded in 1370, the third year of the reign of Ming Emperor Hongwu. In 1997, it was listed as a World Heritage Site.

Best Travel Time: Autumn
Sitting on the trade route between Beijing and Xi’an, Pingyao developed into a business center with the use of the nation’s earliest banks. These organizations were the first in China to use checks, and business came up in the 19th Century, when the city was the financial center of the Qing government. Pingyao is the best preserved ancient town in China.

See my Pingyao Trip Report

Pingyao

2. Lijiang Old Town (where you are disconnected with the outside world) 丽江
Location: Lijiang old town sits in the city of Lijiang City of Yunnan Province. Now it is a UNESCO Heritage Site. The old town has more than 800 years and was once a confluence for trade along the old tea horse road.

Best Travel Time: All the year around; for snow scene, come to Lijiang in winter season.

The Lijiang old town is famous for its orderly system of waterways and bridges. The old town of Lijiang is quite different from other ancient Chinese towns in architecture, history and the culture of its traditional residents the Naxi people.

3. Dali Old Town (drink tea and see flowers) 大理

Location: Dali old town is located in the middle of Yunnan Province. The layout of Dali ancient town is like a chessboard orderly arranged and designed with streams passing by each household. The local Dali government has an urban planning which keeps its old town separated from the rest of the new area of Dalin City, so visitors coming to Dali for the first time often feel they have entered a time tunnel.
Best Travel Time: Spring time – March

Dali is the ancient capital of both the Bai kingdom Nanzhao (the 8th and 9th centuries), and the Kingdom of Dali (937-1253). Dali is also well known for the many types of marble it produces, hence the name of “Dali” which is literally “Dali Stone”. Dali is now a famous tourist place, together with Lijiang, for both domestic and international tourists.

Dali Old Town

4.Yangshuo (Time Passing Here) 阳朔
Location: Yangshuo is located 65km the south of Guilin city in the northeast of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, south of China. The town has been 1400 years, famous for its picturesque mountains and rivers, a perfect place for holiday vacation where you forget time and experience the happiness of your vacation.

Best Travel Time: April – October

The area around Yanggshou is dotted with Karst peaks and the Li river meanders its way around them. Yangshuo is the final stop on any of the cruising on Li River. You may spend a few hours here or several days to explore its neighbouring areas.

Yangshuo

5. Zhouzhuang Water Town (The best water town in China) 周庄
Location: Zhouzhuang Water Town is located at the middle between Shanghai and Suzhou. It is an ancient town of Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province. The village abounds with rivers and lakes. Zhouzhuang boasts many cultural and historical relics.

Best Travel Time: All seasons, but avoid public holidays.

Regarded as “Venice of the East”, this town has the best water town preserved in China. The town has a history of over 900 years and most of houses in the town were constructed in Ming (1368-1644) or Qing Dynasties (1644-1911).The rivers and streams in Zhouzhuang passes the town and are connected by 14 stone-arch bridges constructed in Yuan (1271-1368), Ming, and Qing Dynasties.

Zhouzhuang

6. Tongli Water Town (Pearl of Taihu Lake) 同里
Location: Tongli Town sits by the Grand Canal and the Taihu Lake, about 18 Kilometer away from Suzhou, 80 kilometer from Shanghai. It has a history of over 1000 years with very convenient transportation.
Best Travel Time: All seasons, avoid public holidays.

Tongli is typical of the water county of South China. There are totally 5 lakes circling Tongli from both outside and inside. The town is sectioned into 15 small islands by over 10 rivers. However, the islands are linked by over 40 stone bridges of various style which were constructed in successive dynasties. Tongli is noted for her small bridges, clear water.

Tongli Water Town

7. Wuzhen Water Town (Always Young) 乌镇
Location: Located 17 kilometres in the north of the city of Tongxiang, Wuzhen sit at the confluence of the four cities including Tongxian, Jiaxing, Huzhou and Wujiang, a typical water town in southern China. Various rivers circle streets; streest are linked by bridges.
Best Travel Time: All seasons, avoid public holidays.

Wuzhen is an old with its ancient stone bridges, stone pathways and delicate wood carvings. The town also has a rich cultural background with a history of over 1000 years.

Wuzhen Water Town

8.Fenghuang (Hills, Rivers and People) 凤凰古城
Location: Fenghuang literally means “Phoenix” in Chinese, a small and old city, 145 km south to Zhangjiajie City and 50 km south to Jishou City in Hunan Province, China. Fenghuang covers an area of 1700 km with a population of 370,000. There are the minority ethnic group, such as Miaos, Tujias. Fenghuang was described as“the most beautiful ancient city in China” by the famous writer Louis from New Zealand.
Best Travel Time: four seasons

Fenghuang has lots of relics and the sightseeing, the ancient city’s mountains and Tuo river, residents and establishment, temples and pavilions and so on. How to get to Fenghuang? You may first go to Zhangjiajie and connect buses to Fenghuang or you first go to Jishou and connect the buses to Fenghuang. Beijing West Station K267 12:58 / 14:53 next day.

Fenghuang

9. Huangyao (Nestled in the poetic mountains)黄姚古镇
Location: Huangyao Town is located in the northeast of Zhaoping County of Hezhou City of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, south of China. “Huang” and “Yao” are the main surnamcs of the people who live here, hence the name of the town “Hangyao”.

Best Travel Time: September – November

The town originated in Song Dynasty with a history of over 900 years. Here you are back to a time tunnel, feeling its history and its past busy prosperity and a place to settle your heart peacefully here. The town is nestled in the mountains with picturesque view resembling a Chinese painting.

Huangyao

 10. Chikan Old Town (Half Chinese and Half Western) 赤坎古镇
Location: Chikan old town is 12km away from the city center of Kaiping City, 160km southwest of Guangzhou City in Gongdong Province. The old town was first built in Qing Dynasty with a history of over 350 years. It still  retains much of her charm as a flourished market town.  The Tanjiang river passes by the town with fishing boats and the western style buildings made up picturesque view for this ancient town.

Best Travel Time: October – December

Chikan Old Tow

Chikan Old Tow

Any questions,  just drop a line.

 

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One Response to “Top 10 Old Towns in China”

  1. Heather CAREY says:

    wE ARE TRAVELLING TO CHINA NEXT JULY FOR 3 WEEKS AND WILL BE LEAVING THE YANGZEE RIVER CRUISE IN YICHING , THERE ARE 3 LADIES WHO WOULD LIKE TO VISIT FOR 2 NIGHTS A ANCIENT TOWN THAT WE COULD EASILY REACH BY TRAIN . a WATERTOWN WOULD BE NICE AND STAY ON THE CANAL FOR THE 2 NIGHTS. i WOULD LIKE SOME HELP FINDING A TOWN THAT ISNT TO BIG AND WE COULD RELAX AND NOT TO HARD FOR US TO GET TO FROM YICHING EITHER BY TRAIN OR PLANE . i LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR EMAIL, THANKYOU hEATHER

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