China trip – Southern Anhui Province – Hongcun

first view of Hongcun across the lake
first view of Hongcun across the lake

After lunch we hopped on a bus and went to another world heritage site village called Hongcun. The first view of the village across the small lake was stunning even in the rain!

view from home-stay
view from home-stay

We had booked a home stay for the night so first thing to do was find it and stow our packs. Much more enjoyable visiting the town with less on our backs. The room was simple but the setting just amazing.

in the alleys of Hongcun - the water flows towards the village centre
in the alleys of Hongcun – the water flows towards the village centre

At first the village seemed a confusing maze but it was true that the flow of the water was a constant reference to find the way.

entry court
entry court

This extensive house had a series of courtyards and interesting interiors.

larger courtyard
larger courtyard

What a pleasure to step from a small dark interior into a large courtyard… bright and open while still feeling private and intimate.

courtyard with elaborate carving
courtyard with elaborate carving

The intricate carving in the structural members would have been indicative that the family was particularly wealthy at the time the home was built.

romantic bridge
romantic bridge

This bridge was the backdrop for the opening scene of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon… so beautiful.

about to cross the bridge
about to cross the bridge

So I had to cross it too!

from the top of the bridge
from the top of the bridge

And over the top of the tiny bridge… lotus blossoms ahead!

lovely lotus
lovely lotus

The lotus is not just a beautiful flower but also a cultural and Buddhist symbol – while it grows out of the mud, it floats above it untouched and undisturbed…

photos (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer

China trip – Southern Anhui Province – Xidi

Beautiful town gate with lake and mountain
Beautiful town gate with lake and mountain

The ancient villages of Southern Anhui province are considered a world heritage site. Among them, Xidi’s Ming dynasty charms along with the stunning setting were enough to make me promise myself another visit one day. These villages are living museums (you pay a fee to enter) with on the one hand ancient infrastructure and architecture and on the other, people going on about their daily lives in a perfectly modern way (in amongst all the tourists).
Xidi’s beautiful gate is the first monument you see when you enter the village and the last when you leave…

Courtyard, water vessel and view to lake through entry
Courtyard, water vessel and view to lake through entry

Courtyards…

View through village wall to water garden
View through village wall to water garden

A charming gate leads back out of the village to a water garden and, across a narrow neck of land, vegetable plots.

Water garden and view back to village
Water garden and view back to village

Classic Ming dynasty roof top profiles… and communications towers.

Alley of Xidi
Alley of Xidi

Narrow curving lanes wander between the ancient buildings – there’s just enough space for scooters!

Typical residential entry courtyard - looking up
Typical residential entry courtyard – looking up

The residences still have traditional woodwork at the front courtyard. Often, the family still lives in the building. Tourists come and go freely but respecting that access is only if the gate is open and only to the front courtyard unless invited further.

Beautiful residential entry court - mossy garden
Beautiful residential entry court – mossy garden

Love these mossy gardens!

enjoying another lush entry garden
enjoying another lush entry garden

Caught on camera  by my friend as I soaked up the ambience.

Roof top view
Roof top view

Many of the people living in the village clearly make their living in one way or another from the tourists. There are small shops selling handicrafts and local tea etc. Others will prepare a home cooked meal for your lunch at a reasonable price. The view above is from the roof top of such a home. After selecting what we wanted from the fresh local produce in her kitchen, our hostess encouraged us to enjoy the view from the roof while we waited for lunch to be ready.

Art students everywhere!
Art students everywhere!

These villages are great beauty spots in China and as such attract art students from all over the country. School was just over for the year so there were many taking advantage of the break or on group trips.

photos (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer except #8 (c) 2013 Merlyn Foo