Land of Rice Wine and Stinky Tofu: A Weekend in Shaoxing

Other than the obvious choices of Suzhou and Hangzhou, one of my favorite towns to visit within driving distance of Shanghai is Shaoxing. Famous for its rice wine and stinky tofu, this old watertown is located about three hours south-southwest of Shanghai by car or by train. Despite its rampant modernization, with cranes, shopping malls and tall buildings rising up everywhere, the city of four million residents retains a small-town feel. Low hills topped with pagodas grace the city and canals and waterways criss-cross the otherwise urban environment, giving it a quaint beauty that many other watertowns in the Zhejiang-Jiangsu region have either lost or are trying too hard to preserve. In Shaoxing the waterways and their old houses seem to integrate well with the city's more modern features. Tourism in Shaoxing is much bigger than it was six years ago when I first visited the town, but not surprisingly it is geared primarily for domestic rather than international tourists. The city and its environs feature monuments and homages to Wang Xizhi, Lu Xun, and Lu You, all legendary figures of Chinese literature and arts.
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