I visited Xitang in 2002. It was a little less famous then; it hadn’t even started charging admission for entrance through its gates. It was just one of many charming little water towns in Zhejiang Province, but it especially appealed to foreign and domestic tourists. The town was more than happy to accept the increasing tourism.
When Tom Cruise came to China to film Mission Impossible 3, part of the movie was filmed in Xitang. Xitang closed down for the filming. It had hit the big time.
One of my co-workers visited Xitang recently. He said its rustic charm is now “enhanced” by the posters of Tom Cruise everywhere. Curious, I had to do a search. This is what I found:
So now Xitang is “that little water town with pictures of Tom Cruise all over it.” This doesn’t bother me; it just amuses me somewhat. Things change, but everyone still just wants to make a buck.