Comments on Xidi and Hongcun by the World Heritage Committee
The two traditional villages of Xidi and Hongcun preserve to a remarkable extent the appearance of non-urban settlements of a type that largely disappeared or was transformed in the 19th century. Their street plan, their architecture and decoration, and the integration of houses with comprehensive water systems are unique surviving examples.
Located in Yixian County of Huangshan City in Anhui Province, the Xidi and the Hongcun Villages display the typical buildings of the old Anhui style. They are famous for their original rural scenery, old and simple village layout, and Anhui-style residential houses displaying superb craftsmanship as well as a rich and profound historical and cultural connotation.
First built during the Huangyou reign (1049-1053) of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), Xidi Village boasts a history of over 900 years. About eight kilometers from downtown Yixian County, it was originally a compact community of the families with the surname Hu and now has 124 old residential houses and three ancestral temples of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, as well as the Lingyun Pavilion, the Provincial Governor’s Pailoo, the Ruiyu Courtyard, the Taoli (Peach and Plum) Garden, the Dongyuan (East) Garden, the Xiyuan (West) Garden, the Tai Fu Tai Mansion, the Jing’ai (Reverence) Ancestral Temple, the Lufu Hall, the Qing-yun House and the Yingfu Hall. The boat-shaped village is often referred to as the Ming and Qing Folk House Museum of China and is surrounded by mountains. Two rivers also run through the village and the streets and lanes are built alongside these rivers and paved with bluestones. The ancient buildings are simple but elegant, and are mostly wooden structures with brick outer walls. The carvings in wood, stone and brick are rich and colorful. The three-bay and five-storey pailoo of the Provincial Governor Hu Wenguang, supported on four pillars, was built in 1578 or the sixth year of the reign of
Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and symbolizes the prominent status of the Hu Family. The Jing’ai Ancestral Temple, located in the center of the village, covers an area of 1,800 square meters, making it the largest ancestral temple in Xidi. Every house with its magnificent courtyard and exquisite garden is rare among the ancient folk dwellings of China in terms of layout, structure, decoration and furnishings.
Located 10 kilometers northeast of the downtown of Yixian County, Hongcun Village was first built in 1131 or the first year of the Shaoxing reign of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and was originally the compact community of the families surnamed Wang. It now preserves 137 ancient buildings of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). Seen from a distance, the village looks like a blue ox lying in front of the mountain and near the river. Close up we can observe that the ancient buildings feature pink walls and black tiles, all regularly arranged. Of these, the Chengzhi House, covering an area of over 2,000 square meters, is the grandest and most exquisite building in the village and is known as the “folk imperial palace”. The various wood carvings in the house are both complicated and vivid with a richness of components and still look nothing short of magnificent. Jingxiu House, Dongxian House, Sanli House and Xuren House are grand, simple or solemn, depending on one’s viewpoint. Moreover, the ancient towering trees, green vines on the walls and 100-year-old peonies in the courtyards form a whole series ofliving pictures which, combined with the perennial mist and clouds as a backdrop, have earned Hongcun the reputation of being “the village of natural Chinese painting”.
Tourist Information Transport
Tourists in Beijing can get to Huangshan by train or by air and then complete the journey to Yi-xian County by bus. There are daily tourist-dedicated trains heading for Huangshan from Shanghai. Those starting in Chengdu, Chongqing or Wuhan can conveniently reach Anqing, Chizhou or Wuhu by boat and then continue to Yixian by train or bus; for those in Guangzhou or Shenzhen it is best to travel by plane and via Huangshan City.
Anhui cuisine is one of the eight major cuisines in China, famed for using raw ingredients from the mountains, especially venison. It stresses color, correct use of cooking oil and preparation time, and fea-tures strong flavors. The local snacks in Yixian County, such as the Laba Bean Curd, the Crispy Sugar, the Fried and Stewed Mandarin Fish and the Fried Mung Bean Paste, are all highly recommended.
A number of high-quality local products in Yixian County, such as mushrooms, raw silk yarn, the Jinxing Lacquer Craftwork and the Yishan Sparrow’s Tongue, enjoy a high reputation both at home and abroad. It would be a shame to visit here without purchasing at least one of these.
Admission for Xidi or Hongcun: 80 yuan Telephone of Xidi Village: 0086-559-5155444 Telephone of Hongcun Village: 0086-559-5541158