Panda Cup Tongxiang Tour: Exploring the Ancient Town

TONGXIANG, China, Dec. 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — By China Report ASEAN.

“This is my first visit to an ancient Chinese town,” marveled Eva Akimova, a Russian student from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, upon reaching Puyuan Town in Tongxiang, east China’s Zhejiang Province. “I had only seen these ancient villages, small bridges, murmuring brooks, and exquisite pavilions on TV before. It’s so beautiful!”

On November 28, the winners of the 2023 Panda Cup Foreign Student Essay Contest arrived in Puyuan to continue their “Meet You in Zhejiang” tour.

Scenic Countryside

“The houses here look so similar,” exclaimed a foreign student even before disembarking. Xinlian Village in Puyuan is a model village for building a new countryside in Zhejiang Province. As a pilot village, Xinlian has been awarded several honors such as National Civilized Village and National Rural Governance Demonstration Village since Puyuan launched a campaign to build “modern towns” and “integrated urban-rural communities” in 2009.

When entering Shijixinlian Community Phase 4, visitors were  greeted by broad and clean asphalt roads, lush trees, and rows of neat and brand-new cottages in modern Chinese style. The cottages were planned, designed, and built in a unified way by the village. Currently, Shijixinlian Community accommodates 548 rural households, about 80 percent of all the households in the village. Each house has a small courtyard where the owner can grow fruits and vegetables or set up swings and other recreational facilities.

Zhu Peixing’s home is a three-story townhouse in the community, covering an area of over 320 square meters with front and back yards totaling more than 20 square meters. There is even an underground garage. Many of the wooden decorations in the house were made by Zhu himself, and the walls are covered with various certificates of his granddaughter’s achievements. The foreign students showed great curiosity when visiting Zhu’s home. “This doesn’t look like the traditional countryside we imagined,” one said.

In the culture center, the students saw Chinese traditional wedding costumes and headpieces and learned about local wedding customs. Staff explained that the wedding and funeral ceremonies in the village are all held here and that elderly people often come here to rest and chat after meals.

To regulate villagers’ living habits, Xinlian has also established a revelation platform which provides monthly supervision reports of each household on environmental hygiene, garbage classification, and other aspects to encourage villagers to develop a civilized lifestyle through an incentive-based system.

“I am glad to have learned about the stories that happened in this village,” said Eva Akimova. “It was once a poor village, but now I see the locals living in such wonderful houses. The changes are amazing!”

Fashionable Ancient Town

Established in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), Puyuan Town was historically well-known for its silk production. During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, it was one of the five famous towns in Jiangnan, the region south of the Yangtze River. With a history of nearly 900 years and a profound cultural heritage, Puyuan has numerous historical relics, and its old streets are well-preserved to this day.

The flowing waters, beautiful greenery, numerous pavilions, and winding corridors in the resort all radiate the elegant charm of the ancient town, offering an overwhelming experience with different views.

“It’s much more beautiful than in photos and videos,” said Vietnamese student Liu Thi Hyun admiringly. “You can only feel the charm of the ancient town when you are in it.”

A number of old buildings with distinctive Puyuan characteristics that were once lost to history have been restored in the core area of the town. The integration of the ancient town with its culture and industry has driven the development of tourism, leisure industry, wellness tourism, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and events) tourism, and fashion industries in a complete industry chain.

Bamboo weaving is a traditional folk handicraft with a long history, listed in the second batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008. Unique bamboo weaving works such as bamboo baskets, bamboo cages, bamboo-woven fans, and oil-paper umbrellas in the bamboo craft workshop attracted everyone’s attention. The foreign students sat down one after another to experience the beauty of Chinese style through the ancient craft and use bamboo as raw material to weave. Chen Baojun, a Malaysian student studying at Chongqing University, made a bamboo frame featuring persimmons, which represent an auspicious and prosperous future in Chinese culture. “It symbolizes best wishes that everything will go well,” she explained. “I like it very much!”

“Puyuan Ancient Town not only has beautiful scenery but also rich historical heritage,” added Chen. “Seeing the antique buildings and walking in the quiet alleys, I experience a different kind of Jiangnan scenery here.”

Liu Thi Hyun expressed gaining a lot from the journey. “Thanks to the Panda Cup, I got the chance to personally experience China’s intangible cultural heritage and beautiful rural landscapes,” she said. “I have also gained a deeper understanding of China’s integrated urban-rural development, which is very meaningful to me.”

The field trip was supervised by China International Communications Group (CICG) and the Publicity Department of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee, sponsored by the CICG Asia-Pacific and the Foreign Languages Press, and organized by the Zhejiang University of Media and Communications and the Publicity Department of the CPC Tongxiang Municipal Committee.

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