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Discover Canals, Culture, and Computers in Wuzhen

The ancient water town in Zhejiang province is modernizing as a technology hub while maintaining its artistic roots

Around 80 kilometers north of the provincial capital, Hangzhou, the ancient water town of Wuzhen (乌镇) is a serene mix of stone bridges, Ming-era houses, and winding canals. Wuzhen is known as the “Venice of the East,” and visitors can enjoy gentle boat trips along the town’s crisscrossing waterways.

But despite its ancient roots, Wuzhen is making a name for itself in more modern ways—as a hub for trendy art exhibitions and tech start-ups. Since 2014, Wuzhen has hosted the Chinese government-sponsored annual World Internet Conference (WIC), which has seen world leaders and tech bosses, including Apple CEO Tim Cook in 2017, meeting to discuss the future of the digital world.

There are also plans to make Wuzhen the world’s first “5G smart town,” incorporating the technology into everything from firefighting to education. At the 2019 WIC, Wuzhen deployed driverless buses using 5G technology to drive guests around. These buses will be rolled out to serve an area of 110 square kilometers across the town in the future.

Wuzhen is also a major cultural center, as it was for much of Chinese history. Multiple art galleries house new exhibits regularly, including the Muxin Art Museum (木心美术馆), which showcases the work of legendary Wuzhen native Mu Xin. The annual Wuzhen Theater Festival is a celebration of both traditional and modern performing arts, and features an outdoor parade as part of the festivities.

Cover image from VCG

Excerpt taken from Rolling with Zhejiang, TWOC’s new booklet on tourism and language in Zhejiang province available in English, French, German, Russian, Korean, and Japanese. Get your digital copy today from our WeChat Store or iTunes Store!


author Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the managing editor at The World of Chinese. He writes mainly about Chinese society, especially life outside the biggest cities. His pieces touching on diverse topics from the future of China’s ski industry to efforts to prevent juvenile crime.

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