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The World Cultural Heritage site of Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town is at the center of the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal, nestled in Tai'erzhuang, Zaozhuang City, Shandong Province (actually at the intersection of Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Henan Provinces), and it boasts of being the most beautiful water town in China.
Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town boasts 18 ponds and 15 kilometers (9 miles) of streets and lanes along the waterways, as well as old ferries. A boat trip can be taken to tour around the town.
Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town was built during the Qin (221–207 BC) and the Han (206 BC – 220 AD) dynasties, developed during the Tang (618–907) and the Song (960–1279) dynasties, and prospered during the Ming (1368–1644) and the Qing (1644–1911) dynasties.
Tai'erzhuang was awarded the title of “the First Town on the Earth” during Emperor Wanli's reign in the Ming Dynasty, due to its burgeoning social and economic status, resulting from the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal changing its course to the town.
At the same time, the unique style of Tai'erzhuang Water Town was formed due to the clash and interaction between South China culture and North China culture.
However, Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town was ruined completely during the Battle of Tai'erzhuang, which broke out in the spring of 1938.
Tai'erzhuang was rebuilt on its ruins in 2008, and numerous war relics remained after the Second World War, which is why it has been awarded the title of one of the World Cultural Heritage war sites along with Warsaw, Poland.
The north Zaozhuang section of the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal is unnavigable, and most cultural relics have disappeared along this route.
The south Zaozhuang section has been extensively modified since 2008, but it still cannot compare with its old days; therefore, Tai'erzhuang has become the only town of Zaozhuang Prefecture to display the original appearance of the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal.
Qianfu Village fully represents the lifestyle of the residents of the Ming (1368–1644) and the Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, where lots of ancient streets, lanes, embankments, water gates, and architectures are well-preserved.
As a water town in ancient times, Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town has numerous temples, churches, and pavilions along the river, including Wenchang Pavilion, Mt. Tai Goddess Temple, and Mazu Pavilion.
Beicheng River Scenic Area is a wetland park with nine well-connected ponds, where the highlights include Lotus Creek, Orchid Sandbank, Willow Bank, Peach Blossom Dock, Apricot Blossom Ferry, and Mt. Tai Xanadu.
Canal Street Scenic Area displays ancient Grand Canal scenery, where the major attractions include the Queen of Heaven Palace, the Tai'erzhuang Grand Canal History and Culture Exhibit Hall, Shuangxiang Port, Tai Shan Tang Private School, and Tai'erzhuang Battle Park.
Banqiao–Huamenlou Scenic Area features traditional Chinese gardens, where the major scenic spots include Slab Bridge, Huamen Tower, Lanling Academy, Tai'erzhuang Water Culture Art Hall, and Tai'erzhuang Battle Bullet Trace Wall.
In addition to appreciating various kinds of cultural museums and bridges, different intangible heritage cultural performances can be enjoyed in the town.
Dozens of folk performance sites are dotted throughout the exhibition halls and squares of Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town. The highlights include the Emperor Qianlong Visiting Tai'erzhuang Town Show, the South Shandong Shadow Puppet Show, Qin Shu (storytelling in the form of ballad songs with a musical accompaniment), Liuqin Drama, and the South Shandong Drum Performance. The movie Bloody Tai'erzhuang Battle is projected in Yiqian Square each night.
In addition, many tourist boats are also available in Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town, which can be classified into two kinds: the well-decorated pleasure boats and cockle-boats.
A pleasure boat can hold up to 35 people, while a cockle-boat can only hold 10 at most. It is extremely enjoyable to explore the beauty of Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town by boat while listening to the boatmen singing and telling the legends of the town.
By Air: There is no airport in Zaozhuang City, however, Tai'erzhuang can be reached by traveling to Shandong Linyi Airport (90 kilometers from Tai'erzhuang), Xuzhou Guanyin Airport (110 kilometers away), Lianyungang Baitabu Airport (110 kilometers away) or Jining Qufu Airport (130 kilometers away) first, before taking a coach or taxi for the rest of the journey.
High-Speed Rail: Most travelers take the Beijing–Shanghai Railway to Zaozhuang Railway Station, 70 kilometers from Tai'erzhuang, and then take one of the following to get to Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town:
Ordinary Trains stop at Zaozhuang West Railway Station, 76 kilometers (47 miles) from Tai'erzhuang, and travelers can:
2. Take a taxi for about 200 yuan from Zaozhuang West Railway Station to Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town.
China Highlights can arrange transport to Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town from these airports or stations.
Entry for Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town is 160 yuan per person from 8:00am to 6:00pm, and 100 yuan per person from 6:00pm to 9:30pm.
In the Ancient Town
Over 30 hotels, hostels, and motels are available within Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town, each of which is different from the others in architectural style, price rate and supporting facilities. The hotel prices range from 100 yuan per room to 500 yuan per room each night.
Near the Ancient Town
Most hotels neighboring Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town are three-star business hotels or chain hotels, whose prices are about 100 yuan per room per night, and most of which are within 5 minutes' drive of Tai'erzhuang Ancient Town.