A village in Zhejiang’s celebrated Wuzhen water town has been reinvented as a tourism attraction that proffers a pastoral charm. Yang Feiyue explores this rural retreat.
A village in Zhejiang’s celebrated Wuzhen water town has been reinvented as a tourist attraction that offers pastoral charm.
Green fields and whitewalled farmhouses with black-shingled rooftops color Wucun’s agrarian allure.
It’s a land where rice paddies and wooden fences emanate from a vast lake.
Farmers in straw hats plant, tend to and harvest crops.
The village saddles up against the ancient Grand Canal that connects Beijing to Zhejiang’s provincial capital, Hangzhou. Boats bob along the waterway.
Wucun is the newest attraction in Wuzhen, a water town whose canals have long lured travelers from around the world. But while Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) architecture remains the main attraction for Wuzhen’s Xizha and Dongzha areas, Wucun’s appeal is pastoral.
Visitors immerse themselves in farm life. They can grow vegetables, catch fish and collect water caltrops amid stunning scenery.
It mostly attracts parents with children, says Wuzhen Tourism Co’s branding manager, Xu Hong.
Kids can get close to nature and appreciate food before it reaches the table— and after.
Packages costing 880 yuan ($130) per night cover meals, accommodation, local transportation and interactive activities. The price drops to 220 yuan without accommodation.
Visitors can select programs according to their interests. Indeed, there seems to be something for everyone.
Activities include paper-folding, scarecrow-making, cocktail and coffee classes, and animal feeding.
Athletic types can enjoy programs featuring shuttlecock, archery and badminton. Winners get prizes. Mornings offer calisthenics, 2-kilometer jogs and tai chi sessions in the village square, which also hosts group dances.
Wucun’s small zoo also serves as a venue for tourists to compete on three-player soccer teams and to play table tennis.
Cyclists can rent bikes to wheel around the village’s perimeter.
Cultural types can play xiangqi (Chinese chess), take handicraft lessons and learn how to perform with waist drums, which local people traditionally do to celebrate bumper harvests.
There are old-film screenings, reading activities and bonfire parties.
Visitors can fish for lobsters, harvest crops and learn how to cook dishes like local farmers under their tutelage.
“We’ve hired over 40 farmers to run farming activities,” Xu says.
“After all, who knows farming better than farmers?”
This has boosted local employment, she says.
Zhu Xinfu teaches farmers to plant and manages shipments of food surpluses between Wucun and the rest of Wuzhen.
He starts at 7 amand finishes at 5 pm.
The 51-year-old’s skin is baked by the sun, and he’s clad in a threadbare shirt and trousers.
“There’s more work than before,” Zhu says. “And more income.” The local government helped him build a three-story house on a 120-square-meter plot near Wucun after taking his old home in the village three years ago.
He lives with his wife, child and mother. The family rents out part of the house.
He says he’s happy with his better standard of living.
Qian Ziqiang, who also works in the tourism area after he was relocated, echoes Zhu’s sentiments.
His new home stands at the village’s entrance.
“I’m not working for money but to do something with my life,” the 67-year-old says, while feeding cows, sheep and fowl.
“Doing nothing would be boring.”
None of the old houses have been torn down, claims Wuzhen Tourism Co’s president, Chen Xianghong.
Many buildings have been renovated but their basic structures have been maintained, he says.
Fishponds and trees have also been protected, he says.
Many former farmhouses appear to be crumbling from the outside, but their interiors are comparable to starred hotels, replete with ruralstyle furniture.
The village can accommodate nearly 300 guests at a time. For now.
“We hope (people) visit for more than a meal in a building that resembles a farmhouse, but instead stay to immerse themselves in the culture.”
That is, to truly experience country living.
Tourists visit Wucun for its pastoral appeal. The village in the famous water town Wuzhen in Zhejiang province has been developed into a tourist attraction that brings city people close to nature, and they can enjoy fresh food directly from the fields.