ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “安徽

HONGCUN (宏村), Anhui, China

In year 2000, the sleepy village of Hongcun stepped up onto the international stage after it was Inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, as well as appearing in a number of movie scenes of Coughing Tiger and Hidden Dragon.  Since then, Hongcun has become a tourist hotspot in Anhui, second only to the scenic Huangshan.  First inhabited over 900 years ago during Southern Song Dynasty, the well preserved village of Hongcun is considered one of the greatest examples of fengshui village in China.  Hongcun’s layout was known as “cow” configuration, in which the village’s significant components, such its trees, water ponds, lakes, bridges, etc. were put together in an order that metaphorically resembled the shape of a cow, from its horns to legs, and stomach to intestines.  In fact, the “cow” configuration of Hongcun was based on a fengshui master’s decision during the Ming Dynasty, who suggested the “cow” configuration as the perfect fit for the spirit and landscape of the site.

Another crucial feature of Hongcun’s design was its water network.  Similar to the inner system of a cow, water was led through the entire village, passing in front of each individual home within the village boundary.  Apart from daily water use, the water system also served as a means for fire safety and micro-climate control.  The Moon Pool (月塘/ 月沼) at the village centre, referred as the cow’s stomach, and the South Lake (南湖), referred as the cow’s belly, served as the two filtering water bodies before water returned to the natural river system outside Hongcun.

Apart from its fengshui and water system, Hongcun is also well known for its well preserved Huizhou (徽州) architecture.  Huizhou was a historical region in China, encompassing Southern Anhui and Northeastern Jiangxi.  Just as the Laojie of Tunxi, Huizhou architecture in Hongcun are mainly building complexes made of white washed walls and dark tiled roofs.  While most of Huizhou architecture at Tunxi’s Laojie are shops and mixuse buildings, in Hongcun there are all kinds of Huizhou buildings preserved, from courtyard homes to ancestral halls.

Located in Yi County about 85km from Tunxi, Hongcun is easily accessible by public bus.  From Tunxi, we took a bus to the nearby town of Yixian, where another local bus took us for the last 10km to reach Hongcun.  It was a Sunday.  We arrived at the South Lake (南湖) of Hongcun in mid-morning and were immediately overwhelmed by the sheer amount of local tourists and art students arrived before us.  In the mirror perfect reflection of Hongcun and its picturesque arch bridge, we could the magnificent Huizhou architecture, blue sky, waterlilies and groups after groups of tourists entering the village.  In an attempt to avoid an over-touristy “theme-park” experience, after we crossed the bridge of South Lake we immediately found our way through a series of narrow alleyways some way off the central path where most tourists entered the village.  Once inside, wandering around the crisscross alleyways leading to the Moon Pool (月塘/ 月沼) proved to be a much enjoyable experience.  At a courtyard house converted guesthouse, we enjoyed a local meal with fresh taste of the countryside.  Visiting some of Hongcun’s fascinating courtyard complexes and ancestral halls filled with exquisite wooden carvings and antique furniture was definitely memorable.  Although quite a number of houses in Hongcun had been converted for tourist businesses, some original villagers still remained in the village, and could be seen doing laundry at the Moon Pool, or washing rice at water channel in front of old courtyard houses, or drying herbs and flowers along the village alleyways.

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Art students gathered along the shore of South Lake with their easels, paper and colour plates.  Through compositions of colours and strokes, each student had a different expression of Hongcun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe stone bridge crossing the archer-bow shaped South Lake provides an elegant entry into Hongcun. During our visit, there was a long queue crossing the bridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe natural setting of Hongcun is picturesque. The South Lake produced perfect reflections of the Huizhou buildings and the surrounding scenery.

4Huge water lilies were planted at the entrance of Hongcun.

5Narrow lanes crisscross the entire village.  Getting lost in the network was an enjoyable experience.

6The magnificent Moon Pool was the focal point at the heart of Hongcun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause of its beauty, the Moon Pool was also a magnet for tourists.

8The reflection of Huizhou architecture in the Moon Pool resembled a great Impressionist painting.

9Built in 1403, the Wang’s Ancestral Hall or Lexu Hall (樂敘堂) was the architectural gem along Moon Pool.

10 Portrait paintings at the semi-open guess hall of Lexu Hall (樂敘堂).

11The well-preserved wooden architecture could be seen throughout Lexu Hall, including the inner ancestral hall.

12Fed by water diverted from Jilin Stream which originates from a spring in the hillside behind the village, Hongcun’s intestinal network of water channels runs past the front of each house.

13Chengzhi Hall (承志堂), a historical home of a wealthy business in the Qing Dynasty, is another famous complex in Hongcun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABuilt in 1855, Chengzhi Hall is famous for its Huizhou architectural details, including painted ceilings.

15Chengzhi Hall’s most fantastic feature is undoubtedly its wooden carvings.

16Inner courtyard of Chengzhi Hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASemi circular table and the antique chairs revealed the social habit of the former dwellers.

18In Chengzhi Hall, there is a quiet chamber and private courtyard belonged to the former treasurer of the family.  It was designed according to fenshui for “keeping the money from flowing out of the house”.  Water was led into this corner of the complex and entered a fish pond.  The wooden balcony overlooking the fishing pond reminded visitors even the treasurer could enjoy a pleasant living environment along with the host family.

19Hongcun is still inhabited by local residents. We get a glimpse of the local life from the hanging laundry and sun-drying herbs and flower buds in the alleyway.

20In the afternoon, many tourist groups were gone.  The village regained its tranquility.  Standing on the narrow stone bridge at South Lake, the picturesque Hongcun appeared in perfect harmony with nature.  If we have a second opportunity visiting this lovely village again, we will definitely choose to spend a night in Hongcun in order to truly appreciate its rural beauty in the harmonic serenity of water and sky.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China

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LAOJIE (OLD STREET), Tunxi, China

With its extensive waterway and transportation network, Tunxi (屯溪) has long been a trading centre in the Anhui region since ancient times.  Today, it also serves as a good base for visiting the two UNESCO world heritage sites in Anhui, Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) and the Huizhou villages.  Also known as Huangshan City (Yellow Mountain City), Tunxi is conveniently connected to the mountain trailheads and the cable car terminals at the mountain foot with frequent buses.  At the heart of the old town is the well preserved historical main street simply called Laojie or Old Street (老街) which is about 1.27km long running in the east-west direction. Laojie reached its heyday in the Qing dynasty when it served as a commercial hub for businesses, especially tea trading. Today, Laojie has become a popular souvenir street, serving tourists heading to and from Huangshan.  Timber buildings and restored Huizhou buildings with white washed walls flanked both sides of the pedestrian street.  Vendors sell all kinds of souvenirs from the region, such as tea leaves, ink-stones, chili sauce, etc.  At night, vivid lighting and vibrant retail activities lit up the old buildings of Laojie, enhancing the enchanting atmosphere of the pedestrian street.

The Laojie of Tunxi offered us an introduction to Huizhou (Anhui).  For two nights the Youth Hostel at Laojie provided us a comfortable base to explore the unique architecture, food, and culture of the region.

1With its white washed walls and dark tiled roofs, Laojie remains as a showcase of traditional Huizhou architecture in Anhui.

2Timber panels are still being used as shop gate along Laojie.

3Some of the better preserved buildings have been converted into museums. Wancuilou (萬粹樓) Museum has a display of private antiques collections.

4Timber lattice and traditional window designs were still common sight along Laojie.

11Apart from wooden lattices, roof tiles also played a significant role in traditional Chinese architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVendors selling all kinds of souvenirs from traditional paper to spicy sauce revealed what Anhui is well known of among local tourists.

6Vendors of candy fruits and handcrafted hair combs with animal bones.

7For us, the century-old herbal medicine shop was one of the most attractive shops at Laojie.

8Meishi Renjia (美食人家 ) is a popular restaurant near the entrance of Laojie. We tasted a number of local dishes including dumplings, handmade noodle with meat+bean sauce, bamboo shoot salad and stuffed lotus root with sweet sticky rice in osmanthus syrup.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA restaurant specializes in Huizhou cuisine has a little booth at the front of the restaurant selling fried hairy tofu (毛豆腐).

10In the midst of traditional Huizhou architecture, two buildings stood out with their western touches.  One of the buildings was decorated with a communist star and the washes of old blue paint on other one revealed the building’s past glory and uniqueness.

12Stone products such as these bowls are popular here.

13Despite writing with ink and brush is no longer popular nowadays, the famous She inkstone (歙硯) from She County in Anhui  with meticulously carved figures remain as a popular souvenir from the area.

14Other than inkstones, Chinese brushes and xuan paper are among the most popular souvenir available in Laojie.

15Xin’an River lied in south of Laojie, where a local fisherman was testing his luck.

16Wancuilou (萬粹樓) at night.

17There are many restaurants serving Huizhou cuisine in the Laojie area which makes Laojie easily become a popular place for social gathering.

18Most shops were open till late at night.

19The entrance gateway of Laojie is a popular gathering place for tourists and the locals.

20This is the view of Laojie from our hostel window. The street remained active until late at night.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China


HISTORY, SCENERY, ARCHITECTURE, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China

Intro

In Mid-September, we made a short trip to the province of Anhui Southern China. It has been over a decade since we last backpacked in China. Compared to the culture of arid yellow earth, mighty military history and ancient Buddhist temples in Shanxi and Hebei that we visited in the past, Anhui and the surrounding areas belong to a landscape of green teas, lotus ponds, and misty mountains.

From Hong Kong, we first flew to Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, from where we took a bus to the town of Tunxi. Also known as Huangshan City, Tunxi is the transportation hub for most travelers visiting Huangshan. A stroll on the Laojie (Old Street) in Tunxi prepared us to the crowded experience that may happen in any tourist spots frequented by local visitors. We took Tunxi as the base to visit Hongcun and Xidi, the famous ancient villages nearby that captured the imagination of many movie directors and local painters. On Huangshan (Yellow Mountains), the magical mountains renowned for the mysterious scenery, we spent two days braving the centuries old stepped trails awaiting for magical moments when spiky granite peaks revealing themselves under the veil of mist and fog. Returning with burning knee pains and muscle ache from Huangshan, we had a dose of China’s contemporary architecture at the National Academy of Art in Xiangshan, near Hangzhou. While this brief visit reminded us our fond travel memories in China, it may well reignite our interest in making longer journeys in other parts of China in the near future.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China