By Hunter Zhu
Graphic and Media design
Around the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day Holiday, I successfully completed my busy internship which lasted a month. Later, infused with hope, I took the high-speed train from Shanghai to Hangzhou and transferred to a bus in Tongxiang. After traveling for one and a half hours, I arrived at the famous Wuzhen, a town renowned as “a land flowing with milk and honey, and the home of silk.” When I was learning Chinese in primary school, I had to read a lot of ancient poetry depicting regions with rivers and lakes in the Southern part of China and since then I have been yearning for such destinations.
As one of China's top ten most charming towns, Wuzhen is a renowned historical and cultural place and was established as the permanent location of the World Internet Conference since November 19, 2014. Wuzhen enjoys a history of 1,300 years since it was founded during the Tang Dynasty, the most prosperous and glistening period in China's history. And visiting this town can also provide deeper glimpses of the features and styles which were popular during the Late Qing Period and the Republic of China. Portraits of grand buildings, all near water, rise with multi-layered ridges and eaves up to the sky, while stone pathways and old wooden cottages spread out in the most austere way. It is an ancient town where life has lost none of its flavor by housing the local residents up to now. The town features streets formed naturally along the riverside, tangled with bridges and crisscross waterways which divide the whole town into four parts called Dongzha, Xizha, Nanzha, and Beizha, which correspond to the eastern, southern, western and northern areas. Among of them, Xizha is the one in possession of the most distinctive and most wonderful structures, which are set apart by weaving waterways into 12 tiny islands connected by dozens of unique old stone bridges. The place has more rivers and bridges than any other ancient town in China. To me, the following scenic spots are the ones that touched me most when I stayed in Xizha for two days.
Bridges in Xizha: Over 70 small bridges stand in Xizha, but each of them has its own personality and the distinction of each bridge can be felt by its own unique style and pattern. Bridge in Bridge, reputed as the most distinguished, is denominated from two bridges that are adjacent and perpendicular to each other. Standing on any of them, you can easily see the other bridge through an opening, and naturally admire the splendid view which is similar to seeing the full moon from a deep well.
Natural Dye Workshop: It's a big workshop which runs manually and is eco-friendly as a place for dying, printing, and drying. It’s also a perfect place to explore old, naturally dyed masterpieces and you'll be rewarded with a chance to dye by yourself. The large drying site is paved with blue bricks, and decorated with tall sticks densely standing here and there with cloth racks arranged in a step-shaped manner. Blue calico is one of China's traditional printing and dyeing crafts. It has numerous attractive attributes such as austerity, simplicity, endurance, dirt-resistance, and breathability which made farmers very fond of wearing it. In addition to blue calico which uses bluegrass as the raw material, the Natural Dye Workshop also specializes in a unique multi-color dyeing technique. Multi-color dyeing is rich in its expression of colors which are extracted from all sorts of materials such as tea leaves, mulberry bark, and black eucalyptus leaves. In a way, this workshop is an invaluable cultural inheritance full of the wisdom of our ancestors, which makes us admire the exquisite craftsmanship and skills of the ancient artisans. It has become a symbol reflecting the long history of the Chinese people and a source of our national pride.
Wupeng Boat: This narrow boat, covered with a low awning that is woven with thin bamboo strips and painted black, is a unique means of water transportation in Wuzhen. Wuzhen is a typical water town naturally teeming with boats. There is no better choice, I think, than taking a ride on a Wupeng Boat to enjoy the scenery of Xizha at leisure. Sitting on the boat, I could comfortably appreciate the beauties of both riversides, the arched stone bridges, the flat stone paths, and the busy women washing clothes by the river. These all formed a beautiful riverside scene.
Wuzhen at night: When the night falls, thousands of lamps light up the streets. They glow through the bridge openings and in the water, and a sea of lights brighten up the rivers. Displaying a sense of quietude and steadiness during the day, Wuzhen at night looks like a dazzling pearl, enticing you in a totally different way.
During this year’s internship, aside from work, I think that making full use of holidays to experience life was also extremely significant. Design is actually derived from life, and the purpose of design is to solve problems based on one’s in-depth experiences of the world. For me, traveling in fact serves as a way to experience another life, and during the process of traveling, I am able acquire a lot of inspirations and come to know the circumstances and culture of a nation. For example, in Wuzhen, there are a lot of signboards from ancient China that are kept in good condition and presented in all sorts of manners. As a designer, I took note of many of their visual elements such as typefaces. In Wuzhen, there are also a lot of aesthetic features symbolic of Southern China which I just mentioned, such as bridges and tile-roofed houses. If I can combine their ancient appearance with modern design, I believe they would prove to be quite helpful to my own work as a designer.