Zhouzhuang, Tongli or Zhujiajiao

Ling asked:

Hi Jianshuo,

It’s me again. Wow, your replies are pretty prompt! Thanks! I did some research on the various nearby attractions, and got myself even more confused now. I just found out that there are also 乌镇 (Wuzhen) and 同里(Tongli)。

Have you been to all four places – 周庄(Zhouzhuang), 朱家角(Zhujiajiao), 乌镇(Wuzhen) and 同里(Tongli)? Between these four places, does Zhou Zhuang still rank #1?

Some of the Web articles I read just now say that Zhou Zhuang is too commercialised. But some also say it is well-maintained as a result. Decisions, decisions…

Here is my personal answer.

Overall, it is very Similiar

Overall speaking, Zhouzhuang, Tongli, and Zhujiajiao are very similiar in nature. They are all water/river villages. They are all built on the network of rivers, and share the same architect style, tradition, and a lot of things in common.

The difference among these villages is not significant. It is unlike the difference between Beijing and Angkor – the major cities in the old world. In the Beijing or Angkor case, they are the creation of the effort of the whole empire and they are so unique world-wide. Something you can find in Beijing (like Great Wall) or the Angkor Wat in Angkor cannot be found in anywhere in the world.

However, Zhouzhuang, Zhujiajiao and Tongli are just villages. They are among the thousands of villages in eastern China. They are unique because they are preserved better than the nearby villages. So basically, if you visit any one of them, you don’t have to visit the other.

The other reason why they are attractions is, it is near Shanghai. Shanghai is a big city without too many places to go, so Zhou Zhuang and all the other villages stand out, although they are not so unique in China.

The Difference

Despite of the similarity, there are still some differences.


Zhoujiajiao is the closest one in Shanghai. Actually, it is located inside the border of Shanghai Munuciple. It is claimed as the only ancient village in Shanghai. There is a Zhujiajiao Exit of the Expressway A9 (the one connecting Hongqiao Airport to Qingpu).

Zhouzhuang is in the middle – it is adjacent to Shanghai. When cars exit Shanghai border, and Zhouzhuang is right there. Since Jiansu Province charges money (like 30 RMB, I remember) for any car entering Jiangsu, we always have to pay the money just for the several km there.

Tongli is farther. It is 7 km away from Suzhou. Leaving Zhouzhuang and ride west ward and you will reach Tongli.

To conclude, Zhujiajiao, Zhouzhuang, and Tongli are in the same area. If you ride a bide, you can go to all these three villages in a day – I did before.

My Favorite

The difference between the three villages are not big as the difference between their day time and their night time. Take a look at my entry Tongli – Beauty at Night. My personal suggestion is, always spend a night in these villages, and it is even better that you don’t stay in the village after 9:00 AM.

Why? All of the villages are very commercialized and in the day time, when tourists came, it is just a shopping mall with old style architect. Only at night, when all the shops closes, and the villages become what they really are – villages.


It is not a hard decision to make. Randomly choose one. If you need my help, then Zhouzhuang. Then you may ask: How about Tongli? I’d say, OK, then Tongli. Because the difference is really not big.

Hope this helps.

For more information about travel informaiton, check my category Attraction Near Shanghai

6 thoughts on “Zhouzhuang, Tongli or Zhujiajiao

  1. haha, i just went to wuzhen and zhujiajiao. zhujiajiao is quite nice, while wuzhen is kind of crowded, kind of ‘wu liao.’

  2. haxi, did you go to those two places from Shanghai? Is it true that it takes only 30 minutes by taxi to go to Zhujiajiao from Shanghai? By the way, are you a local or a foreigner in China?

    Oh, I’m surprised that Wuzhen is crowded and kind of wu liao (无聊?). I heard from a friend’s brother that it is older and more “authentic” than some of the other water villages.

  3. I have been to Zhujiajiao. It’s nice, especially if you’re a foreigner looking for a feeling of traditional China. (Don’t know about the reality, but for an outsider the feeling is sort of what you think it should be.)

    But there is no way you can get there by taxi in 30 minutes from Shanghai, if you mean downtown Shanghai. It’s at least an hour, and I would say more like an hour and a half. Zhujiajiao is right on the border of Shanghai municipality, it’s quite a ways.

  4. Hey – I will probably make a little trip to Zhujiajiao just for fun because I kind of enjoy these little villages but have yet to try that one.

    I’ve been to Zhouzhuang a few times and liked it a lot. I also recommend the overnight trip because the village is truly charming at night and I love the colorful lanterns that come on after dark.

    Just wonder why no one mentions Qibao Laojie? I go there from time to time as well; it’s just a bit southwest of Hongqiao Airport. It’s famous for its snack street but it does have the ol cobblestones and waterway where you can take the boat tour for RMB 10. My favorite thing is to go up in the second floor of a teahouse at the intersection of the canal with the lane and sit in the corner room overlooking all the pedestrians and boats going by.

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