Updated: Dec 9, 2019
There are few villages in Anhui region that simply epitomizes the classic fairy tale Chinese homes. It will be a pity if you are anywhere near Hangzhou and not visit these still inhabited gems. They are enchanting, ancient, charming and strangely despite waves of development in main cities, they are still traditional and primitive in their daily lives.
Hongcun village (宏村, Hóngcūn)
First built in Song Dynasty (1127-1279), Hongcun Village has been Wang clan's settlement blessed with an honorable history of about 800 years. Their townscapes are developed in harmony with the natural environment, using the geomantic principles of Feng Shui.
Thanks to famous film director Lee Ang, he found this splendid place and made it as a main scene for the Chinese film "Wo Hu Cang Long (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)". In the 73rd Academy Awards, the film won Best Foreign Film, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Art/Set Direction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnkOsVo8qY0
The villagers brought water from the river in the west into the village, and dug out a one-meter-wide water channel meandering through nearly every household.
The hotel we stayed in had a flowing stream which they now use to rear carps. The water is surprisingly clear and you can see villagers washing vegetables and household-wares in it!
The waterways form a half-moon pond #hongcunvillage in the middle of the village and create a crescent lake in the south, which together highlight the soul of the landscape of Hongcun.
It is especially nice to come here when the crowds have left, the lake is as still as a mirror with lovely reflections of the surrounding village!
Picture perfect for your Chinese fairy tale shot! There is a make-shift breakfast store that sells fresh soya milk with dumplings (pau) and noodles at the end of the lake, the food is not great but it gives a vivid feel of old charm and village vibes minus the day trippers whom are steadily building up as early as 8.30am!
The ancient residential buildings in Hongcun are the best examples of Anhui-style architecture. There are about 140 well-preserved folk dwellings dating back to Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 - 1912). The local residences, ancestral temples and memorial archways are essential sights to behold.
The history of China is so deep and ancient that with explanation you are able to compare and visualize better in tandem with the happenings at the similar period across the world!
Best times: March and April for spring scenery, October and early November for autumn scenery.
The best way to visit this very popular village would be to stay a night there. The cobble stone lanes are narrow and tight and not suitable for mass tourism that engulfs the village everyday especially during holiday periods!
As dusk descends on the village, hoards of visitors would have left, leaving it deserted, dark but only one street bustling with live selling local fare such as cured meat, hairy tofu, lotus seeds, chestnuts (fruits of the season) and the piercing music from karaoke bars, but you could easily escape into the darkness through the labyrinth and return to the life of a lost era.
How to get to Hongcun
If you depart from Tunxi of Huangshan, you can take direct bus (written 屯溪-黟县-宏村in Chinese) to get there.
Tunxi bus station is near the downtown of the Huangshan city. You can take a taxi to the Tunxi bus station which is a short trip and will just cost ten Yuan to get there. Then get on the bus heading to Hongcun which will take you right to the front gate of Hongcun village tourist site.
There are buses and high-speed trains between Wuyuan and Huangshan city. For bus you could take at the Huangshan bus station centre (黄山客运总站) in Huangshan city to Wuyuan county. The bus starts at 8:30 every morning and the cost will be 45 Yuan. For anyone planning going to Hongcun from Wuyuan, you could get a bus as well, while the bus stars at 6:40 and the cost will be 21 Yuan.
Xidi Ancient Village (西递)
The old merchant village was cited in 2000 by the World Heritage List for its well preserved old architecture and water systems. Xidi is an outstanding representative of Huizhou traditional culture, building techniques, agriculture, and landscaping.
As you pay the entrance fee (104RMB) at the gates you will notice this very ornate stone archway. It was built during the sixth year of the Wanli ruling period in the Ming Dynasty (1578) Huwenguang Archway is solemn and elegant in style and ingenious in structure with outstanding stone carving techniques, and therefore signifying the prominent position of Hu’s family.
Because all the streams in the village run from East to West, the village was named Xidi.
The Hui-style architecture in the Village is well-proportioned in structure and dotted with brick, wood and stone carving.
The old houses had fire walls that have served to protect these wooden structures since they were built. This fire prevention architecture is part of the reason these very old wooden structures still remain to this day!
Entering Xidi Village, you will realize that the roads leading to it is not direct but from east-west direction and is flanked by two parallel streets.
We arrived in Xidi around 4pm and as we explored the streets, the overwhelming aroma of dinner was in the air. I sneaked into the many kitchens with their doors wide open, surprised to discover that wood fire is still being used in almost every household. It is indeed primitive way of life here!
There was one particular house in Xidi that captivated me most during my trip. This house was not confiscated by the communist government and their off-springs and new generation still dwell in the house without much changes from who it use to be!
Da Fu Grand House
The Da Fu Grand House, built during the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911), is located on the main street of Xidi Village. It’s an old residence of the Hu family. The doors of the main hall are carved with plum flower patterns and the windows with paper cuts in the Ming style.
Beside the main hall stands a two-story boudoir facing the street. Nowadays, locals hold performances in the Da Fu Grand House, and the most wonderful one is the Throwing of Embroidered Ball from the boudoir. As a love gift, throwing an embroidery ball is a traditional game that confess love and when the ball is returned, the girl agrees to have a date with the boy or maybe even marriage in those days!
You can walk in for free as it is included in the entrance fee, however need to pay 5 RMB if you wish to go upstairs. The carvings of the house truly captivated me, the detail and intricate work of the glorious carvings has lasted through generations, but sadly the state of the house is dilapidating fast. As I walked upstairs, I envisaged happy memories and the life that the house used to have, but now, only decay. I hope the government could preserve such gems better, they are so old that you could breathe and smell the soul of the house!
How to get here
Tunxi to Xidi, you can take the bus from Huangshan Bus Station to Hongcun Ancient Village, which passes by Xidi, and visitors can be dropped off here. It runs once per hour from 8:00 to 16:00. The bus from Huangshan North Railway Station to Hongcun also passes by Xidi, and it runs once per hour from 9:25 to 17:25. Tangkou to Xidi Ancient Village, the buses depart at 9:30 and 15:30; or you can share a taxi or car with other visitors, and the fare is around CNY20.
Take a tourist bus straight to Xidi, once per hour from 9:00 to 17:00. Take a returning bus to Huangshan North and get off at Xidi; the bus is available once per hour from 8:30 to 16:30. Take a taxi or private car to Xidi Village. The taxi fare is around CNY70.
in northeast Jiangxi is noted for having "the most beautiful villages anywhere in China". It boasts many well-preserved ancient Ming and Qing style architectural features, from ancestral halls to mansions and homes, to bridges.
I especially thought that Huangling Village was the most prettiest among the Wuyuan area. Huangling village, Jiangxi province, is an ancient village surrounded by green mountains, or yellow or red depending on which season you arrive! The village's history dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
The typical Hui-style houses, featuring black roof tiles and white walls, are also well preserved in the village. During the autumn, the villagers always dry their crops, such as corn and hot pepper, which have become a highlight for the ancient village. In addition, the village has been recently honored with the title "China's Most Beautiful Symbol".
I was in awe to see such glorious ornate cravings on the houses, so unimaginable when you add the timeline on the houses! This village is truly idyllic, set amongst surrounding hills, terrace, color of nature, a blend of nature and old charm.
The colors of autumn was truly captivating, I believe it would be totally different come spring!