"The Vangtze River Delta of China is famous for its "watertowns" with theirpeaceful canals, arching bridges, and classical Chinese gradens. In cities likeSuzhou, famous gardens such as the Tiger Hill Pagoda and the Garden of theHumble Administrator are easily identified as historic landmarks and arenow preserved by the Chinese government. Unfortunately, the same effortshave not been made to preserve the ancient urban fabric of the small water-towns ofthls region whose merits are more subtle and delicate spatial rela-tionships.In watertowns like Zhou Zhaung, significant cultural spaces like the manytiny plazas at the water's edge are lost forever if even one defining buildingis removed. Vet in many such watertowns, ancient arching footbridges arebeing replaced with auto bridges, canals are being filled in, and narrow al-leyways are being widened to accommodate motor traffic. In Zhou Zhaung,Ming Dynasty houses and temples of great historic and architectural interestnow serve as multifamily residences, warehouses, and government offices.These buildings are presered largely by the circumstantial poverty of theirinhabitants who cannot afford to modernize them. However, as China devel-ops economically, an unfortunate side effect is the destruction, through im-provement, of the ancient character of these towns. The authors believe that these heretofore overlooked towns and the country-side around them are worthy of preservation. The ancient but still livingfabric of a watertown like Zhou Zhaung with its canals, urban spaces, and-shops and with the comings and goings of its farmers, merchants, and trad-ers represents the genius of an entire people, from peasants to aristocrats.Such watertowns may still be observed not as museums but as a functioningpart of the unique Chinese agricultural ecosystem. Each town is surrondedby its own rice paddies, fish ponds, and vegetable gardens, which are workedby the townspeople and fertilized largely by their night soil. The canals of-the town connect with a maze of channels, lakes, and rivers which serveboth the local watermelon farmer bringing his produce to town, and for longdistance hauling as far notrh as Beijing.In this paper the authors will describe the unique character of these water-towns and present a proposal to preserve them and their surronding coun-tryside by introducing and planning for a low-density tourisf industry.Sessions, Case Studies: ldentitiy, Change and Spatio-Cultural Interaction inTourism Environments.TM The authors are educaltors and design propession-als. This paper Is based upon their joint research and travel in China in1988 and 1989. It is illustrated with original photos and architecturedrawings."