Hongcun Walkabout

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Reflections on Southern Lake

Welcome to the ancient village of Hongcun situated in Yi county of Huangshan city within Southern Anhui Province, China. Listed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 it was selected because it has retained many original features of Anhui villages built between 14th and 20th centuries.

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This is not a mask!

Hongcun was founded in 1131 by a Han Dynasty General, Wang Wen. Despite having over 800 years of history it had withstood development and modernity and managed to keep its character as a traditional Chinese village with commercial economies and clan-based social structures intact.

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A classroom in Zhidang Hall

This is what one of the classrooms in the South Lake Academy looked like in the old days.

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Wenchang Pavilion

The South Lake Academy was a private school built in 1814 and comprises of 6 different buildings namely Zhidang Hall, Wenchang Pavilion, Qimeng Pavilion, Huiwen Pavilion, Wanghu Tower and Qi Garden.

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Ornate doorways & shelters

The Huizhou style of architecture is typified by buildings with white-washed high walls made of bricks from local clays and black tile roofings. There are few windows and openings are usually high up to foil thefts. Sky wells are found commonly in these buildings to allow for air circulation and to provide natural light.

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Chinese pastries sweet & savory

I passed this little shop and tried their delicious and piping hot pastry filled with sweet mung bean paste and topped with black sesame seeds. It measures about 10cm in diameter and because it was so good, I had it all by myself.

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Many students are sketching these ancient buildings & the special roof designs

We see many students here on excursion to study and sketch their observations of Anhui’s Huizhou architecture and capture the interesting details found on the doorways and arches of these ancient buildings.

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Activity around Yuezhao Chi, the central clearing of Hongcun

The layout of Hongcun resembles the shape of an ox and a complex network of water canals crisscross the village feeding both the central Moon Pond and Southern Lake. Southern Lake is shaped like the buffalo’s belly; Moon Pond akin to the stomach area and the channel, the intestines.

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Yuezhao Chi – a half-moon shaped pond

A channel was dug in the 15th century to bring fresh water from the West Stream into the village. The open watercourse runs through the entire village.

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Many buildings here date back to the Ming & Qing dynasties

Over 130 buildings which date from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) are still standing today.

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Very creative use of the natural materials they find close to home

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Other artistic interpretations of Hongcun etched on bamboo

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Miniature water wheels & grinding mills

The Chinese have a long history in both arts and traditional handicrafts. It not only embodies the people’s pursuit of aesthetic beauty and as gifts for others but a treasure for China and the rest of the world to enjoy. Perhaps the most representative of Chinese arts and crafts are Bronze vessels, Folk toys, Embroidery, Calligraphy, Music, Opera, Painting, Cloisonné, Jade, Kites, Lacquer Ware, Paper-cuttings, Porcelain, Pottery, Seals and Silk.

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Interesting Brass & wood carving doorway

Hongcun village was prosperous during two periods, 1401-1620 and 1796-1908 when the Wang family became officials and merchants and thus accumulated great wealth. They built many fine buildings during those years which are now left to posterity.

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Rustic charm of Hongcun

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Red Banners posted on the doors to usher in blessings during the Spring, Chinese Lunar New Year

Wander off the main thoroughfare and discover for yourself, interesting little quiet corners like these.

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A sculpted beam depicting the everyday lives of the villagers in Hongcun

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Beautifully carved door panels

The wealth of the villagers was evident in the ornate carvings on the door panels, structural beams and door posts in a number of the ancient houses.

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Ladies literally ‘washing their dirty linen in public’!

The elaborate waterways in the village has been carefully planned to prevent contamination and pollution and there are designated spots for drinking water, washing and even fire extinguishing.

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The bridge made famous in the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”

For those who have watched the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” directed by Ang Lee in 2000, you would probably find this picturesque bridge vaguely familiar. There are four bridges that lead into Hongcun village.

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This bridge leading into the village looks like an arrow

Hongcun lies at the foot of Leigang Mountain, facing south with the central point of the village flanked by mountains and rivers.

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A carefully preserved ancient village with an exceptional water system that gives it a unique overall appearance

Hongcun might not be on many traveller’s itinerary but it is really worth a visit to soak in the ambience and walk down the narrow cobblestone lanes that wind around the ancient, boxy-like buildings with their pointed black tiled roofings. An authentic village where the locals go about their own business and daily living and tourists are free to wander around without being hassled by touts.

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