Wuzhen villages offer authentic rural experience

Updated 2017-12-05 11:01:57 China Daily
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An aerial view of the villages.

An aerial view of the villages.

Near the ancient water town of Wuzhen, the scenic villages of Maming and Haihua provide the perfect destinations for travelers seeking a taste of authentic rural life.[Special coverage]

While most people in Tongxiang city in East China's Zhejiang province are still nestled beneath the covers at 3 am, Tu Yuanqing and his father Tu Bingfa are already up on their feet, arranging cups, boiling water and preparing tea leaves.

The doors to their rustic, cozy teahouse in Maming village open just half an hour later. By 4 am, the space is a hive of activity as elderly residents, most of them aged 60 and above, chat animatedly with one another while sipping cups of tea and smoking cigarettes. Some villagers can also be found playing mahjong in a small room illuminated by a solitary light bulb.

This tea party for the elderly ends at 8 am, the time the villagers begin their day in the fields. But there is no official closing time for the teahouse - the Tu family lives in the same building.

Located at a 30-minute drive from the ancient water town of Wuzhen, Maming village is the polar opposite of the famed tourist destination. There are hardly any crowds here. The old houses are not as well maintained. There are no bright colorful lights that flank the walkways.

Time seems to stand still in the village, making it the perfect day-trip destination for travelers who want an authentic experience of rural life.

Here, tea is not just a beverage, but a way of life. The street that the Tu teahouse is on may only be 50 meters long, but there are three other similar establishments. Not that anyone really cares about the competition. After all, there is little profit to be made from such a business. A pot of black tea costs only 1 yuan (15 cents). They sell between 50 and 60 pots every morning. What he earns in one morning is not even enough to buy him a ticket into Wuzhen.

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Tu Yuanqing runs his family teahouse in Maming village, a 30-minute drive from the ancient water town of Wuzhen.

Tu Yuanqing runs his family teahouse in Maming village, a 30-minute drive from the ancient water town of Wuzhen.

Tu Yuanqing says that he helps run the teahouse, which was handed down to him by his grandfather, simply because it is an integral part of their village culture. He has been working there since he was a teenager.

One of the regular customers is 85-year-old Yu Jiannan. He says that he has been frequenting the teahouse for the past 10 years since his wife died.

"I come here to chat with my old friends. We share news about our family matters and each other's health," he says.

"Coming here has become a ritual for everyone. If someone doesn't show up for more than two days in a row, we start to get worried."

At the end of the street is a bridge that leads to a temple. According to local folklore, the village was named Maming because during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Emperor Qianlong's horse neighed three times as he made his way to the temple.

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Tu Yuanqing runs his family teahouse in Maming village, a 30-minute drive from the ancient water town of Wuzhen.

Tu Yuanqing runs his family teahouse in Maming village, a 30-minute drive from the ancient water town of Wuzhen.

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