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Zhouzhuang Celebrates The Year Of The Sheep With 15-Day Carnival

March 25, 2015 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

From February 19 to March 5, 2015, the town of Zhouzhuang in China celebrated Chinese New Year with a variety of activities and traditions.

Visitors embraced the Chinese-style Carnival of Venice in a water town that retains the distinctive and rich folk custom of Chinese New Year the way locals have been celebrating for hundreds of years.

An ancient town built on water, Zhouzhuang sits on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and Taihu Lake. The four streams crisscrossing one another through the town justify its “Venice of the East” title.

Being the most famous water town in China, it welcomes over three million tourists annually, including 300,000 from overseas. It’s also a popular getaway destination for Shanghai residents as it is less than two hours’ drive away.

The locals live a peaceful life by the canal that contrasts with the busy life in the cities, yet the Spring Festival here has a stronger festive atmosphere. On the first day of the Year of the Sheep, February 19, the traditional agricultural ritual da chun niu took place. Beating the gold-colored ox to mark the first day of the lunar New Year, visitors prayed for a good harvest and prosperity, and touched the ox for good luck.

February 23, the fifth day of the Spring Festival, is the birthday of Chinese God of Wealth, all the stores in town paying tribute with drums and fireworks throughout the day. Worshiped by most Chinese people, every family hangs up a picture of the god and wishes for luck and wealth.

The ritual hosted by the town had true Chinese New Year carnival spirit; at 9:58 in the morning, the town master, dressed in ancient costume, stepped onto the 100-meter “road of fortune” with an entourage holding tributes and a crowd cheering on either side. With the band beating drums and playing loud, festive folk music, he prayed for good luck at the temple and led the guests through the “gate of fortune.”

The waterway parade was another highlight where visitors learnt the story of Zhouzhuang’s very own God of Wealth, Shen Wansan, whose success has made him the richest businessman in the region since ancient times.

The holiday season ended with the Lantern Festival on March 5 featuring three events; the lantern show, the fireworks display and the lantern riddle party. Boats decorated with colorful lanterns travelled on the water when the riddle party connected the visitors with local residents.

Devoted to preserving the ancient life and lifestyle for visitors, Zhouzhuang celebrates the Chinese New Year with respect of its heritage and the carnival takes months of preparation. For visitors from overseas, it is a chance to get a glimpse of ancient Chinese history and culture while for the locals, the village also represents a nostalgic dream.

Zhouzhuang is close to Shanghai and has a similar culture, but keeps to an ancient way of living. The stone bridges, curved roofs and old waterways make up the town’s unique infrastructure and more than 60 percent of the architecture is well preserved from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

In April, the windmill season will return to the water town as part of the 20th China Zhouzhuang International Tourism Festival. Although a symbol of the Netherlands, the Chinese style is a little different, with exhibitions, performances and parties transforming the village into something from a fairytale for three months and giving visitors the chance to make colorful origami windmills that spin with just a gentle blow of the wind.

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