Jiangnan – literally, “South of the Yangtze River” – is a vaguely defined area that straddles Shanghai and its two neighboring provinces, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Out of its watery topography a dizzying matrix of canals was carved long ago, giving rise to an illustrious history of waterborne trade. The area became the economic anchor of the Grand Canal and its residents still enjoy a cherished waterside lifestyle. Jiangnan’s picturesque canal towns, known in Chinese as “shui xiang”, are characterized by burbling brooks, arched bridges, slab-stone paved alleys, waterside teahouses, and whitewashed Ming- and Qing-era homes. These water villages make an easy day trip from Shanghai or Suzhou.
The region west and northwest of Shanghai around Lake Tai includes some of China's loveliest countryside. You can find the region's traditional water towns, acclaimed for their arched bridges, ancient buildings and serene waterways. Here we list six of the most famous Jiangnan water towns: