Unearth a history of traditional crafts in the heart of a modern city in this friendly corner of Jiangsu province on the north bank of the Yangtze River
Centred around the Haohe, a grand old moat, Nantong is a lively city dedicated to open spaces, museums and bars. The result is a tourist-friendly destination where it’s easy to while away the hours.
Find out about the area’s history by going to the Nantong Museum: opened in 1905, it contains an array of items that includes displays on everything from kites to abacuses and auditing, all of which point towards Nantong’s reputation for producing the country’s top students. Another site that tells of the city’s traditions is the Blue Printed Calico Museum, dedicated to the local craft of the same name. The distinctive blue and white cotton has been produced here since the 11th century and the blue dye is made from indigo plants, while the pattern is printed onto the fabric using paper cutouts and paste.
The museum also keeps the craft alive by employing students from China’s art schools to create unique contemporary pieces using the method of this ancient practice.
When you’re ready for a break, head 30 miles north to the town of Rugao to see the famous Shuihui Garden. Winding paths and a serene lake reveal centuries-old stone carvings and delicate bonsai trees. Or, just a 30-minute drive from central Nantong is Shigang, a fishing village with a wild, overgrown stretch of water. Take a boat cruise down its length and arrive at houses where fishermen pull up lobsters and water chestnuts, both local delicacies in the region.
On the edge of Nantong lies one of the largest scenic areas in all of Jiangsu: Langshan (Wolf Mountain). At its base is an old house built in 1918, which was the retreat of a wealthy man and local hero named Zhang Jian. Here, you’ll spot a small waterfall, a stone boat and picturesque pagodas inside a leafy garden. Travel up the mountain to discover Guangjiaosi, an elegant Buddhist temple. A wealth of beautiful artwork adorns its walls, while looking outside, you’ll glimpse Nantong’s busy harbour, with ships coming and going along the Yangtze River.
Local specialities: As well as its famous blue calico, Nantong is known for kites, which are designed to make a whistling sound when they are flown
Street snacks: The city’s rice cakes are especially popular at Chinese New Year
Travel: Nantong is just over three hours’ drive from Nanjing, and 11/2 hours from Shanghai, crossing the Yangtze River via the Sutong Bridge