Located south of Hangzhou Bay in the midst of a flat plain crisscrossed by waterways and surrounded by low hills, the small, intimate city of SHAOXING combines attractive little sights with great opportunities for boating round classic Chinese countryside. Although Shaoxing's immediate centre comprises a standard shopping street, elsewhere there are running streams, black-tiled whitewashed houses, narrow lanes divided by water, alleys paved with stone slabs, and back porches housing tiny kitchens that hang precariously over canals. Many of the downtown sights are around Jiefang Lu, the main thoroughfare. Venture out a little ways and there's a charming lake, Dong Hu, and a couple of important cultural relics in beyond.
Shaoxing is one of the oldest cities in Zhejiang, having established itself as a regional centre in the fifth century BC, but for its size seems to have played a disproportionate role in Chinese culture. Some of the nation's more colourful characters came from here, including the mythical tamer of floods Yu the Great, the wife-murdering Ming painter Xin Wei, the revolutionary heroine Qiu Jin, and the great twentieth-century writer Lu Xun, all of whom have left their mark on the city.