On July 21, 2015, Wu Juan, a sampan sculler from Zhouzhuang,joined a local gondolier from Venice, who taught her how to handle a gondola.
Wu Juan, a sampan rower from Zhouzhuang in China, joins a local Venetian gondolier in song.
Instead of the barcarolle, Wu sang graceful traditional Chinese fishermen’s tunes while they drifted along the famous waterways of Venice, bringingtraditional Chinese rhymes to Italy.
The gondola trip was part of Zhouzhuang’s “A Tale of Two Cities” event in Venice during the Expo Milan 2015 in order to promote tourism resources from two of the most famous water towns worldwide, and this is the first time Zhouzhuang is showcased in Venice.
The event featured another performance by soprano Nie Hongmei and Italian tenor Francesco Grollo. They sang “Time to Say Goodbye” composed and accompanied on the piano by Francesco.
“The Expo is an opportunity for countries around the world to gather and showcase their culture, history and best products. This year we have come to the Expo to introduce our traditional cultural and tourist products to our friends in Italy and Europe,” said Zhang Weiqing, general manager of Jiangsu Water-town Zhouzhuang Tourism Co. Ltd. “At the same time, we also connected with the host country through a series of cultural exchange events.”
Zhang indicated that Zhouzhuang and Venice share many things in common. Residents in both towns live near water with narrow canals separating rows of classic houses and arched bridges linking different islands. They are both water towns with profound history and have been working extensively to preserve their historical heritages.
Lifestyles in these two towns are also similar. The most famous Carnival of Venice is held every February when visitors gather in the city wearing distinct styles of masks. At the same time in the Far East, Zhouzhuang embraces a Chinese style carnival by celebrating the Chinese New Year with folk customs that are passed down through generations.
Though known as “Venice of the East,” Zhouzhuang’s beauty is different from that of Venice. As a much smaller town than Venice, Zhouzhuang instead seeks to retain the traditional lifestyle by its tranquil waterways andpreserve traditions that are extinct in cities in order to provide a unique cultural experience to visitors.
The various traditional markets that have been operating for centuries in Zhouzhuang is a prominent example of this. By South Lake, a large fish market sells fresh aquatic products that are caught every morning as well as homemade dried fish and shrimp, offering shoppers a unique experience in a world of big box stores. Such unique legacies are not only historical and cultural heritages to China, but also to everyone in the world interested in such historical quaintness.
“As a cultural ambassador of folk exchange between China and Italy, Zhouzhuang hopes to contribute to the tourism market in both countries, and for people in Europe, we would like to be the gateway to the traditional culture, folk customs and lifestyles of China,” Zhang said.