Zhujiajiao (Chinese: 朱家角; Pinyin: Zhūjiājiǎo Zhèn; Zhujiajiao means "Zhu Family Settlement") is a township in the Qingpu district of Shanghai. The population of Zhujiajiao is around 60,000. The town has a very vibrant ancient water village that is the focus of this article. Formed 1,700 years ago, Zhujiajiao was an important trading hub for the surrounding countryside, and many of the buildings that can be seen there today date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. Traditionally, goods and people were ferried on the small canals from house to house, passing under the 36 ancient stone bridges that are all still in use by locals and tourists alike.
The settlement of Zhujiajiao dates back to the Yuan dynasty, when it was an important marketplace for the surrounding countryside. It was finally granted township status during the reign of the Emperor Wanli of the Ming dynasty. Conveniently placed at the intersection of a number of local rivers, the town prospered through trade in rice and cloth, transported on boats from the surrounding countryside right to the houses of the Zhujiajiao merchants.
The ancient district of Zhujiajiao occupies about 3 sq. km, and exploring it thoroughly will take you at least half a day - even more if you reserve some time for some of the numerous teahouses, coffeehouses, bars and restaurants. While the main streets are slightly touristy, but most streets are still the home of local residents - mainly elderly people and people of a slightly bohemian streak. Doors are often left ajar, and little distinction is made between the house and the alleyway as people go about their day.
Having been a pretty sleepy town in the past, Zhujiajiao seems to be on the verge of a new era. In recent years, there has been an influx of young bohemian people from Shanghai and elsewhere that have settled in Zhujiajiao to get away from the push-and-shove that is modern Chinese city life. As a result, the ancient quarter now sports a number of artsy bars, cafes and shops that make for great hideouts if you tire of the pushier merchants in the main streets. In these places there is a distinct feeling of a kind of cultural exile of young Chinese that have tired of the work-eat-sleep routine and boring jobs in trade and business that plagues China's young.
The most affordable way to get to Zhujiajiao is to take a bus from the bus station at the Puanlu（Chinese: 普安路）bus station near People's Square in Shanghai. Make sure you take the bus line called Hùzhū Gāosù Kuàixiàn (Chinese: 沪朱高速快线) - they usually use pink busses. This should take around 1 hour and the fare is about 12 yuan. There are other bus lines, but they can sometimes take up to 2 hours. Don't worry about where to get off, Zhujiajiao is the end terminal. Also, make sure you don't miss the last bus back to Puanlu, which departs at about 9 PM.
You can get both to and from Zhujiajiao by taxi, but it will usually set you back between 150-200 yuan.
The town is arguably the best preserved of the river towns in Shanghai's vicinity, and the main charm of the town lies in strolling it's streets. There are however quite a few specific sights. Many of them require you to have a ticket, which can be bought at the main entrance and includes a map and guide pamphlet. About a kilometer long, Bei Dajie (North Street) is the main thoroughfare in old Zhujiajiao. Lined with old buildings, some many hundred years old, it makes for a nice stroll, from the Fansheng bridge in the northeast to the Handicraft Exhibition Hall and the Tongtianhe Pharmacy in the southwest. In theory there is a nominal 10 yuan charge to even enter the old district, but we have never heard of anyone being asked to pay it - probably because there are numerous ways into the old district, most of them without any formal entrance.
Bridges are something of a star attraction of Zhujiajiao, which sports no less than 36 stone bridges. Most are only a few meters long and broad enough for a pushcart. Many of them are very old, dating back as early as the Ming dynasty.
Two kinds of boat rides are available in Zhujiajiao.
Cafes & Teahouses
There are countless little shops in Zhujiajiao, everything from the usual T-shirt salesmen to handmade textiles an antique carved wood sculptures and furniture.
HEIMa Bar 东湖街25号 (No. 25 Donghu Street). Located on the quiet Donghu Street, this self styled Viking Bar is the only bar in Zhujiajiao that serves both beer and a wide range of liquor and cocktails. HEIMa is an an Icelandic word that can mean both "home" and "world". With a homey DIY feel, they have built a two story bar-cafe-hangout that mixes the traditional style of Zhujiajiao with their interests in all things Scandinavian. This is probably the only place in China where you can find a tibetan yak skull next to a painting of the Icelandic coat of arms. The fridge had a good selection of cold beers and the drink menu had custom drinks and shots with names like "Iceland" and "Swordstrike".
Zher (这儿) 西井街118号 (No. 118 Xijing Street). Run by a friendly punk called Frank, this beerhouse is a local favourite. The chinese name 这儿 simply means "here". Drinks and snacks are served outside under the willow trees during the spring and summer months. During the colder pars of the year it's better to sit in his newly renovated house, with psychedelically painted floors, comfortable armchairs and a film projector. The music follows the preference of the owner, who is the vocalist of a Shanghai punk band. It's a great place to hear some elusive underground Chinese punk, ska and hardcore. He has a nice fussball table and provides Hookahs and flavored tobacco, and also sells some kitschy communist era souvenirs and handmade jewelry.
There is a hostel on Xijing street, ask for directions. Zher would be a good place, as the owner speaks some English. The owner of HEIMa bar also rents out an apartment for short term stay.