Going around Zhaohua Ancient Town

Remember when I wrote that I had totally forgotten that we actually did travel once a bit around in China? Back then I wrote about the trip to the Jianmenguan Pass which was actually in the end of a 3 day trip around the north of Sichuan.  Why Sichuan? Because it is the neighbouring province of Shaanxi and just a few hours by bus away. Our first stop was Zhaohua Ancient Town which is in the Yuanba District, Guangyuan, Sichuan. Okay, it was not the first “stop” as we did had a couple of stops during the bus ride at service areas. In one of those service areas I saw a public toilet nightmare but this is just too much for this blog and it shall forever haunt only my memories.

Looks old but most of the structure is probably new


As I explained in the other post we were part of a tour group and hence the entire trip around was very carefully planned and left barely any time to go around on your own. At Zhaohua we went straight to eat at a little restaurant organized by the tour group. It was nothing special but good enough to have nothing to complain about. The tour around the ancient town was interesting but annoying at the same time. Interesting as the ancient town was really wonderful and offered tons of picture/ video material and annoying as the local tourist guide had a very fast pace going from building to building which forced me to run after the group more than just once as I was busy taking pictures or recording some videos.

So much red


Zhaohua is a very old town with several temples, an old city wall with several gates, old governmental buildings, sculptures and also an ancient flag stone road. I read back then in some online source that some thirty years ago the town was much smaller, many temples were missing/ destroyed back in the day but that there were also many wooden structures left from the early Qing Dynasty. Though there were many old structures left it was a bit messed up because ugly new houses had been build all over the town. In that source the author explained also how different the town looked when he went there again several years ago as many wooden structures had been torn down and replaced by these new structures. Now these houses didn’t look like new houses anymore as they got fake wooden house fronts so they looked like the old houses again. So by the time we went there I really couldn’t tell which were the original old houses and which were the new “fake old” houses. Besides that the whole town was pretty much very touristy. Not that I am unhappy that they rebuilt so many of these ancient structures but I really don’t understand why they had to tear down actual ancient houses and replace them with new ones.

Hello little snake


We were in the town for a few of hours before heading to the next destination. Nearly the entire time there was spent with eating and running behind the tour guide. Thankfully we had some 45 min times to go around on our own which allowed us to relax a bit after running for so long time and take a closer look at the buildings. The main street in that town was full of little shops selling souvenirs, local snacks and clothes. It was also there that I suddenly ended up with a little snake in my camera bag. No, it didn’t just appeared out of thin air but a man had it on his shoulder and offered me to hold it myself. It was then that the snake decided it had seen enough people for one day and quickly wriggled its way out of my hands and into the dark and cosy camera bag. The man even offered me to buy the snake but you know it would be a bit hard to get that animal through security and customs at the airport…

How do you feel about rebuilding ancient structures but tearing down existing old ones at the same time?

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35 thoughts on “Going around Zhaohua Ancient Town”

  1. I wonder if the houses were rebuilt to modernize them? If the people who will live there want more modern conveniences, they might have needed to remodel.

    I’m never quite sure how it is determined which older buildings will be preserved and which will be destroyed. I understand preserving the history associated with certain buildings, but I’m not sure I think that every old building should be preserved.

    I do think that the atmosphere preserved by the ancient house facade is necessary for a tourist spot – especially for those who want to see “ancient China” – and I wouldn’t complain if I got to walk the streets and contemplate the history of the town ^^

    1. In Germany buildings prior to the 1940s are usually under protection and it needs very special reason to destroy them such as that they are in too bad condition. For example there is a town here with all buildings being at last 200 years old withthe oldest being well over 1000 and thankfully everything has been preserved 🙂

      1. I’m sure they want to preserve the historical value of those buildings! I’d love to see 1000-year-old buildings in Germany ^^

      2. I just wish they would preserve the historical value but moreoftenthan not they actually even change they building materials!
        I just visited cologne with its huge Catholic Church, the foundation is more than 800 years old, it is crazy and just huge

  2. Sichuan (as I recently discovered) is a great province! Looks like Zhaohua is a great place off the beaten track, but must be careful of snakes :0

    1. The whole area where we were is rather hard to reach. To think of the article I read before mention that the town was only reachable via a dirt road or the ancient slab road 30 years ago. These days they are connected to the weird highway system but it still takes ages due to all the mountains around

  3. Absolutely love the pictures – massive fan of little snake! I do think they should be preserving old structures but at the same time I think it’s good there is an effort to preserve the old architectural style in such a way – if only they could incorporate that with preservation of real old buildings that would be perfect!

    1. As I also like it that they put up so much effort to recreate all the old buildings it’s still sad that the old existing ones are often destroyed and replaced with replicas. Just imagine that would tear town the cologne Dom and replace it 😀

  4. Those Chinese tour groups are outta control. There are a lot in our neighbourhood, because we live close to this huge duty-free mall and Lotte World. I’m constantly amazed by how many buses and people there are, and how fast they move from place to place. Definitely a different travel style than what I’m used to!!

    1. Yeah these groups are something special. Rushing from spot to spot, one can’t really enjoy everything around through this method. I prefer going around my own pace and organize everything on my own

      1. Yeah, snake poop…nobody wants to see that 😛 Obviously you were calm enough to take a pic. The photo wasn’t blurry. Hahahaa.

  5. The town looks set in a beautiful natural area. I think I would have liked visiting this place. China is so vast and though I would like to visit it in my lifetime, I don’t even know where to begin with!
    And the snake! At first I was looking at the photo trying to figure out what it is in my lazy Tuesday-state-of-mind at work, then I saw the caption and later the text! Ha ha

    1. China has just too much to offer. I doubt I will even see half the places I wish to in my lifetime.
      The snake was still very small so at first when I checked my bag I’d dint see it either right away 🙂

  6. Looks like the tour guide rushed all of you around Zhaohua. Better seeing a few things than not going at all. In Australia, a lot of olden buildings here are renovated on the inside to have a modern-looking interior, but the old facade on the outside remains. Quite the opposite of what you described above, but it would be nice to keep some ancient buildings the way they are.

    That snake must have thought you were a celebrity 😀

    As for the public toilet nightmare, know you have me wondering and want to hear about it. Can’t be that bad…

    1. In Germany are some buildings where they only preserve the facade and rebuild everything behind it/ changing sometimes the entire building. I would have loved to see these original buildings in that little ancient town but well, can’t have everything.
      The public toilet….oh no I don’t even want to think back. Let’s just say it was a huge hall without any separating walls/ doors and no water…

      1. I suppose a lot of those old buildings are refurnished inside for structural reasons – and if not done so, they might be too dangerous to go near them today.

        Oh, okay. Public toilet. Very public toilet 😛

      2. Yes, very very public toilet…
        In Germany it happens usually when big companies/ banks purchase an old building and the city requires them to keep the old outward appearance to fit into the cityscape. So with some special permission they are allowed to tear down everything behind the facade and basically build up an entire new building behind it. Not sure how I feel about it but at least those buildings keep from the outside their old charme

      1. I kid you not, I read some news about some toilets to be build in Beijing with super high tech, wifi, touchscreens, etc. I was like, wtf?? Ensure toilets are clean and that’s all we need!!!

  7. I find it happens so much in China – rebuilding new to look like old. And teeing down the old which saddens me. Sometimes I wonder if the Chinese do it because they think foreigners like the new. If only they knew. Great post – sorry to hear of the guide rushing. I am lucky on this trip as I have hired a guide and driver just for the two of us. We can suit ourselves wherever we go which is great.

    1. An own guide sounds wonderful. These tourists groups can be also at time rather annoying as each one has own ideas what to do, or need some rests and and and, delaying everything even more so we rush to get to place to place even more.

  8. Unless there is a famous historic figure or mythology that the building covers, it’s not surprising the Chinese might be haphazard in what they choose to preserve. I suspect in a country of China’s size and its economic priorities, architectural preservation may not always be top priority across the country.

    The toilet thing is super annoying and no doubt, frustrating when travelling in China.

    I have notice it in the difference between Chinese and Japanese restaurants in some big CAnadian cities for their washrooms.

    1. We visited also some burial sites here some famous generals are supposedly having their last rest, let’s just say some buildings you could immediately see that they were no more than ten years old, especially when they had old paintings of the real building which looked sometimes completly different.
      I am looking forward to travel to Japan some day. I want to go there already for several years and always something came In between

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