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Xizha, a Cultural Baptism

俞祎君Aggi Yu 2019-01-21 15:06

The weekend I spent in Xizha, Wuzhen was a dreamy 24 hours. Baptised in the fragrance of sweet October osmanthus, I began to understand the gentleness hidden in the ancient stone bridges and alleys.

 

Street Daydream

 

Wuzhen is a town of rivers – in Xizha alone 72 ancient bridges have been preserved to this day. Stone bridges connect the rivers into a network, their poetic names like “Rain-reading”, “Bless and Peace”, “Rising Prospect”, “Nostalgia”, “Charity” arouse one’s imagination to the ancient Jiangnan scenes.


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The way to the ancient canal is a path to the past. Archaic stone pathways lead to the Guandi Temple, where tourists offer incense and pray “may Master Guan bless me with wealth” to the tall bronze Guandi statue. Opposite the winding Great Canal is the Bailianta Temple, where the iconic bells hang on the tower, playing a charming melody with the wind. On the top of the tower visitors have a panoramic view of Wuzhen. During the weekend, the white walls and black rooftiles still reside serenely in their place.

 

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Pomelos hang on the riverside trees, and sweet Osmanthus blossoms fervently. After lunch, a drizzle wets the lanes and brings the Osmanthus aroma to an intoxicating headiness . Wood bridges separate the “water fair” into two halves. Local wines, fresh vegetables and adorable dolls made with calicoes were sold on small boats, and below the water, large flocks of koi fish gather around. The tourist service in Wuzhen is as delicate as the Jiangnan rain. The tourist service centre is home for fatigued travellers. Wuzhen is not only a scenery spot but also home to art and culture. The town takes pride in a number of literature figures, one of which is Mao Dun. The Mao Dun Memorial was built in 2006, which was the 110th anniversary of his death. In the heart of the memorial stands a sculpture of Mao Dun in Chinese white marble, marking his art theory of “for the life”.

 

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Besides, another must-go art landmark is Mu Xin Art Museum which displays Mu Xin’s lifetime art achievements. The museum itself is a delicate piece of art. And recently on exhibition is Persian Poem Manuscripts, where visitors can marvel at five precious pieces of handwritten poem manuscripts from Persia. With my heavy camera and legs weary after a day’s walk, I was instantly relieved on the second floor of the museum.

 

Night Time Reverie

 

The daytime was for scenery views, artistic explorations, and the cultural charms in Jintang Pier and dye houses. Then, the night was dedicated to the Specially Invited Unit of Wuzhen Theatre Festival.


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Long queues had already lined up outside the theatre. The 3-hour-22-minute long Teahouse (without an intermission) is an enormous piece of stage art. The whole theatre was filled with incessant roars and salutes. A huge wheel rotated on the stage, while tables, chairs, teapots and piled of  paper were placed on the high platforms.

 

Suddenly, the white paper smashed onto metal boards, causing horrifying sounds. Stage items were rolled up by the wheel and then fell to the ground, time after time. As the story proceeded, actors spread the paper into air and fell among the audience, marking the “shattering” of the past. Then played rock music! All actors including the director rushed to the stage and began the frantic finale…

 

It was already midnight when I came back to residence from the theatre. The moment I hop off the shuttle bus, I was mesmerised by the view spreading in front of my eyes. Under the bridge arches, amid the stone pillars and above the harbour steps, dots of light decorate the town into a fantastic dreamland. Several night diners were crafted into “midnight canteen”, offering warm and soothing lamb noodle soups.

 

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The way back to inn still gave me the impression of the theatre festival. Along Xizha Avenue, the thoroughfare, flags printed with theatre maestros like Brecht, Kafka, Dostoevsky were hang on both sides… Raindrops, walking steps on the stone pathways, and discussions of theatre fans accompanied me to Mr. Sandman. The next morning, I devoured pickle and pork noodles with a poached egg. As I was chewing the fudgy, delicious Dingsheng cake in the shape of a plum blossom, I cast a glance to the door, and on a flag dancing in the air, I saw Sartre with a pipe in mouth gazing at me…

 

Wuzhen, thanks go to your welcome and your charm. See you next October.


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Information

 

Take a high-speed train from Shanghai to Tongxiang, then take K282 to Wuzhen Bus Station, and then transfer K350 to reach Wuzhen Scenic Zone.

 

Drive from Shanghai to Wuzhen Scenic Zone through route G50- G1501-S32-S12.


Each year Wuzhen Theatre Festival has a different theme. The year of 2018 is themed as “Magnanimity”, which is derived from Shuowen Jiezi, as “Magnanimity, is abundance.”



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