Located in Yunnan province, Jianshui, China, is rapidly developing as a major tourist center. Its history dates back 1,200 years.
Jianshui's Eastern Gate is similar in design to the gateway at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but it is 25 years older. The top level of the gate, as well as an adjacent small park, are full of older citizens who can be seen talking, playing mah-jongg and cards, singing or just relaxing.
A long pedestrian mall lined with trendy shops joins the Western Gate and other ornate gates along the way to some old freshwater wells. There, local women "bucket" the well water into large water containers, from which it's sold to area residents. Nearby, a small factory produces bean-curd sweets. The town is also known for steam-pot cooking and barbecue.
As befits a proper Yunnan city, Jianshui is home to some lovely gardens, including the Zhu Family Garden, which dates from the 1890s. Established by two brothers, the garden contains 42 courtyards, numerous archways, masses of bonsai trees and a huge pool full of koi. Visitors can even stay in one of the garden's ornate, traditional rooms.
Another garden contains the second-oldest Confucian temple in China, modeled after the one in Qufu, as well as a huge pond full of lotus flowers, bridges, statues, doors and carved panels. The workmanship on all these artifacts is incredibly detailed.
A combo ticket is available for the Confucian Temple, Zhu Family Garden and Swallow's Cavern, a huge cave and nesting area for hundreds of thousands of swallows about 11 mi/18 km from the city.
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