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Traditional Small Towns in China

3 May 2007

For thousands of years, the cozy street scene shown in the picture below dominated much of China's landscape. These small towns served as cultural and economic hubs for surrounding villages.

A scene of a traditional town typically seen in south of China

A typical Chinese town, particularly in the south, often features winding streets, narrow waterways, arched bridges, with houses tightly arranged around slab-paved pathways. The rooms along the main routes in the town are normally used as shop front and fully open to the street, with living quarters located upstairs and at the back of the property dotted with one or several inner courtyards.

During market fairs days, the stalls selling local products, many of them being fresh trimmings directly from farmland, would densely line the sides of the roads: seasonal vegetables in bamboo containers, nuts in wicker baskets, bean products on timber boards, small groceries displayed on clothes, and clay figurines presented as an early version of slot machines.

Life in small towns as such is intimate, you can smell the food from your neighbours, and know the world just by sitting in the front room with a pot of tea on the red square table: You see local people and travelers from distant land passing by, watch wedding or funeral processions parading through, observe the change of seasons that brings the change in the streetscape, witness the unfolding of human dramas which never abate. The streets are like shared living rooms, that provide stages for people to share their feelings, emotions, and life experiences.

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