Just 70 km (43.5 mi) south of Hangzhou, atop a spiderweb of canals, sits the little city of Shaoxing (Shàoxīng, 绍兴). The home of Shaoxing wine, one of China's eight famous wines (think grain wines, not grape wines), this little burg is also known for its thousands of years worth of history, watertown beauty, and the number of artists and historical figures who have called it their home. City officials have sought to balance historical preservation and modern urban development in recent years, especially since the kickoff of the World Bank-sponsored Zhejiang Urban Renewal Project. For tourists, however, the lure lies entirely in Shaoxing's old-China feel.
While many of Shaoxing's sites are "doable" within a day, the city's charm warrants a good two or three days to get the best of Shaoxing's traditional black-tiled, whitewashed homes, ancient bridges and canals. Shaoxing is a fine place to relax (while sipping on some mellow Shaoxing wine, of course), and is worth more than a rushed look-see.
Sites of interest reach far back into China's ancient history. The Mausoleum of Yu the Great, a memorial to the legendary founder of the Xia Dynasty, was built in the 6th century AD, though it honors the man who reputedly founded China's first dynasty after taming a great flood over 4,000 years ago. More modern sites include the Former Residence of Zhou Enlai (Zhōu Enlái Zǔjū, 周恩来祖居), one of Communist China's most important first-generation officials, and the Former Residence of Qiu Jin (Qiū Jǐn Gùjū, 秋瑾故居), a feminist anti-Qing revolutionary executed at age 29.
Artists are also well represented in Shaoxing. One of China's most famous poets, Wang Xizhi, composed many famous works in and around Shaoxing, and the poet is now memorialized at the Orchid Pavilion (Lan Ting). Shaoxing-born dramatist, poet and painter Xu Wei's former studio (Qīngténg Shūwū, 青藤书屋) and the Lu Xun's Former Residence, one of China's most important modern writers maintain the old charm of Shaoxing and offer glimpses into some of China's great cultural figures.
Today, Shaoxing is also important in the international textile industry, with China Textile City, one of the largest markets of its kind, located in nearby Keqiao.