After two beautiful days spent on Huangshan, we headed down the mountain and drove through Anhui Province’s gorgeous countryside towards two historical villages: Hongcun and Xidi. Though the two villages are clearly set up for tourism now, they still offer a glimpse into how life was once (and, to an extent, still is) lived in China.
In order to enter Hongcun, visitors must cross a long bride over a wide manmade lake:
Our tour guide explained that the waterways in this village are quite symbolic: Hongcun’s village plan is built to resemble an ox, with it’s lakes and narrow aquaducts symbolizing the animal’s intestines. A bird’s eye view of Hongcun bears no resemblance to any ox we know of; I guess the village plan is really just an allusion or a metaphor?
At the center of Hongcun is Moon Pond, a crescent-shaped body that is the ox’s “stomach.” Scenes from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon were filmed here.
In old China, many villages only housed one family of people; Hongcun was home to the wealthy Wang clan of merchants. Towns consist of private homes as well as temples, where members can go to pay homage to ancestors or gods. We wandered in and out of many old buildings, and saw beautiful carved wood doors and stone fixtures.
But by far the most charming part of Hongcun was the village’s narrow, winding alleys and unexpected views into village life.
Hongcun’s narrow alleys and waterway “intestines.”
Old vendor lady and geese.
We enjoyed a lovely and delicious lunch at a local farmer’s house, set in an old estate amongst a bamboo forest.
In comparison, Xidi was not as quick to charm, though upon closer inspection, there were many details that caught my eye: a window displaying disintigrating Chinese paper cuttings…
…wooden doors with a surprisingly modernist design (this pattern is apparently meant to look like the cracks in frozen ice):
…and an antiques dealer selling vintage locks:
Note the animal-shaped locks; you put a key in the monkey’s/dog’s/lion’s butt to open the lock. Also, the lock in the bottom row, second from the right is an old combination lock using words rather than numbers—you dial in a phrase to unlock its secrets.
It really was a fine day spent enjoying Anhui’s historic villages. We ended with an extensive tea tasting at one of the local teahouses:
And ate a nice dinner, followed by a birthday cake for my mom, who celebrated her 59th year of life by visiting China for the first time!
Anhui Province is one of the (if not THE) poorest province in China, but from what we saw, it is also one of the most beautiful. Like my own birthday in Sapa, I am sure this is one celebration my Mom will remember for a lifetime. Happy Brithday, Mom!