Inside Gubei, a Chinese village designed to look like an ancient canal town

Gubei is one of Beijing’s most famous canal towns. It’s two hours from the city center – and unlike other canal towns, Gubei is man-made.

Overview of Gubei Water Town, Beijing, China, September 2021.

Image by Hale/Getty Images

East Gubei located in the village of Simitai. It covers an area of nine square kilometers (three square miles). It is the only canal town in northern China, according to the Beijing-based magazine That’s Mags.

Although he drew comparisons with Western cities like VeniceChinese media reports that Gubei is modeled after Chinese canal towns. A report said Gubei is designed to resemble Suzhou, a city in eastern China known for its natural waterways. Another said the canal town is a replica of Wuzhen in southern China.

“The city is sometimes referred to as ‘the Venice of the East,'” Wen-Chi Liao, associate professor at NUS Business School in Singapore, told Insider. Despite Gubei’s nickname comparing it to Venice, Liao said the city was created to reinforce China’s “cultural identity” rather than emulate Western canal towns.

Several investment companies and the local government financed the construction of Gubei, according to the Tour Beijing tour website.

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