Xi Tang, an ancient water town about 30 minutes from Shanghai, is a well-deserved day trip out from Shanghai or Hangzhou. Pushed into sudden fame by Hollywood, this little down became a bustling somewhat over commercialized tourist attraction, but it offers a lot of charm and a taste of what old China has (/had) to offer. Compared to Qi Bao, an ancient water town right in Shanghai, Xi Tang is far more relaxed, laid back, authentic looking and diverse.
Before I can go into anything more about Xi Tang, there’s first something you should see. This is from the movie “Mission Impossible 3” where Tom Cruise fights bad guys half way throughout the world to rescue the girl he loves. At minute 102, he manages – once again – to emerge from an impossible situation in an unknown location, and he comes out of a building talking to help on a mobile phone only to find out he’s in “Shanghai”. Jump to 102 and watch the scene for about 5 minutes :
Thing is, Shanghai doesn’t look like that. I mean, I wish it did. I have fantasized about China looking like that before coming to Asia and realizing the big cities are competing among each other to become monstrous polluted versions of Manhattan. But the director was clever, and he knows his target audiences, so he set out to find something that would look more “Chinese”, as in “what Chinese should look like”. That’s when he found Xi Tang, a little water town about 30km outside of Shanghai, where it’s quite fitting to have Tom Cruise running through Chinese people shouting Xiao Xin (小心, “careful!”) and something that sounds like Rang Kai (UPDATE, Nadia translates – rude way of saying “out of the way”).
While I was there, I actually saw a few kids trying to remake that scene. Here’s one I found on Youtube who did it quite well, showing just how difficult that scene really is when it’s crowded:
Want the more historical background on Xi Tang? Travel China Guide introduces :
Xitang is a famous town with thousands of years of history, lying in Jiashan County in Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province. It dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (476 BC-221 BC). Xitang was a place of strategic importance on the boundary of the Wu and Yue states. Its flat terrain is marked by a quiet, natural environment with rivers running through it. From a bird’s-eye view of the whole town, one sees blue water sparkling almost in every point the eyes touch and reflections of the houses in the water. The quiet water, handsome bridges, and the reflections in the early morning and the rosy sunset, fishing boats and the glistening lights in the evening, form an amazing picture full of a sense of poetry which can only be seen in the south lower reaches of the Yangtze River. People in Xitang, whether local residents or travelers, feel that this is fairyland. They even have no idea as to whether people are wandering in the picture or the picture is moving in their hearts. […]
Normal Bus Timetable: In Shanghai, you can wait in the waiting hall of the side of No. 5 gate of Shanghai gymnasium of Xuhui District, the bus to Jiashan County will start on time at 09:00 am in every Saturday and Sunday. In Nanjing, you can wait in the east long-distance bus station and the bus to Jiashan County will set out on time at 14:40 pm.
Note: There are buses from Jiashan County to Xitang about every 10 minutes and the whole journey will take you about 30 minutes.
Special Travel Bus Line: In Shanghai, you can wait in the Travel Collecting and Distributing Center of Shanghai (address: under the No. 5 escalator of Shanghai Stadium (waiting hall of traveling route)). Here the bus will deliver at 08:35 am (every day, including the guide service) and return at 16:30 pm or it will deliver at 09:00 am (only weekend, excluding the guide service) and return at 16:00 pm.
Admission Fee: CNY 100 (tickets include both the scenic region and 11 sightseeing spots); CNY 50 (tickets for the scenic region only)
Opening Hours: Whole day
I spent a whole day there, taking the day bus from the Shanghai Stadium. There is lots to see. If you’re feeling romantic, then I’ve heard it’s worth staying there for the night to see the water town special atmosphere when it’s dark.
If you’re in need of a map…
- The “Ancient Town” of Xi Tang, and Another Stop in Shangers
- Xi Tang – A Story of Time
- Travelogue- Xi Tang (西塘), China (July 2007)
- Xi Tang
- Xitang Water Town
- Xi Tang China ~ 西塘