‘Venice with Chinese characteristics’ is how you might describe Zhouzhuang, a 900-year-old water town near the old silk centre Suzhou, 35 miles west of Shanghai. Punting through the canals you see the influence not of the Medicis but of the Ming Dynasty in its iconic bridges and opulent homes, most of them unaffected by the 21st century.
Blossom Hill is the fusion of three Ming-style homes, reconstructed and refurbished by Shanghai-based Dariel Studio. The 20-suite hotel retains its original pillars, beams, stone lintels and traditional roof, as well as terraces connecting the front and back halls. Designer Thomas Dariel took inspiration from the Chinese solar calendar in a layout guided by the intensity of the natural light and a seasonal palette of yellows, oranges and purples. Then, with a nod to his French heritage, he fashioned a Parisian salon in the library with a fireplace and a baby-grand piano. The restaurant blends Ming furnishings with French ceramics.