Bǎijiānlóu

Top choice Historic Site

in Nanxun

Oddly overlooked by most visitors, this 400m stretch of 100 (or so) wooden row houses, flanking a narrow canal, is Nanxun's most charming spot. The buildings here have distinctive blue-black tiles and white walls, creating striking views. Most houses are still lived in by descendants of workers from Nanxun's Ming dynasty (1368–1644) merchant days when goods would arrive from Suzhou along these waters. Today residents run small tea shops on their waterfront patios (try the local water-chestnut cakes).

Head to the east bank of the canal at the Lotus Bridge (identifiable by the perfect circle shape formed by its reflection in the water) for the largest, most picturesque concentration of houses, where willow trees brush the deep green water. Many of the buildings have decorative eaves to shelter from the rain and retain stylised carvings such as clouds and Guanyin (the goddess of mercy). Red lanterns hang here and are lit up spectacularly at night.