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Poetic ancient hamlets

2013-07-25 10:21:45

(Shanghai Daily)


Xidi village: Reflections of lotus, mist

As we drove on a zigzag road through lush green hills, a lake full of lotus came into view. We heard the raindrops on lotus leaves and watched the mist and clouds winding among the trees and rising to mountains in the background.

Then we saw Xidi Village.

A stone bridge crossed the water and on one side were the famous white walls and black-tiled tiered roofs.

I expected crowds in this famous UNESCO World Heritage site, but when we arrived, there were few people in the tranquil setting. We could feel the peaceful life in the old town and the ambience of Confucian culture dating back 960 years. The number of visitors rises, however, in the peak season.

This cluster of Hui-style architecture in Yixian County is located in the southern part of famous Huangshan Mountain park. It was built in the Northern Song Dynasty (AD 960-1127), developed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and reached its present form in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Legend has it that the son of Emperor Zhaozong in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) was chased by rebel forces and forced to flee the capital city of Chang'an (now Xi'an in Shaanxi Province) to this area near Huangshan. He settled down and lived in hiding under the name of Hu. His descendants lived in the area for generations, finally building the large village of Xidi.

In the Qing and Ming dynasties, many scholars in this area turned to business, such as the salt trade, and became very successful. Then brought money back to their home village, which they turned into a comfortable and stylish settlement. They built elaborate residences of multiple courtyards within white-walled compounds and erected memorial halls for their ancestors. They built stone bridges over the water and paved roads.

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