Huizhou Ancient Villages are located mainly in three regions: Shexian County and Yixian County in Southern Anhui Province and Wuyuan County in Jiangxi Province. Those three counties are situated around the border between Anhui Province and Jiangxi Province and were all under the rule of the Ancient Huizhou Government. They are noted for the ancient Hui-style buildings, idyllic scenery, picturesque landscape and distinctive local color. Numerous tourist attractions are clustered and in vicinity there are quite a few famous mountains such as the Huangshan Mountains, Qiyun Mountains and Lushan Mountains. So the whole area offers a choice route for backpacking travelers.
In the ancient villages, you will not be bothered by the hustling noise made by overcrowded tourists or the loud cries of sellers. Here everything is quiet and peaceful. Just form a picture in your mind: with a bag on your back, against the background whose dominant colors are white and black typical in Huizhou, you step into an ancient village in which any object loaded with profound history seems to tell you interesting stories. If you stroll in an old mansion built in Ming or Qing dynasties, you may stand by a window from which you can enjoy the beautiful view of a nearby hill. At such a moment you may feel that you are in a poetic situation created in the poems of Tao Yuanming, an ancient Chinese poet, who once wrote “I pick fence-side asters at will and carefree see the southern hill.”
From many eastern cities in China such as Shanghai, Beijng, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Fuzhou and Qingdao, there are trains that take you to Huangshan City. If the train passes by Shexian County and stops there, you can get off and start travelling from Shexian County. If the train takes you straight to Huangshan (referring to Huangshan City in Tunxi, not Mount Huang Scenic Spot), you can take a bus from Tunxi to Shexian County, and the bus tour takes about half an hour and costs you only 4 RMB yuan.
If you want to go travelling in Yixian County you also need to take a bus from Tunxi, and the bus tour takes over one hour and costs you 8 RMB yuan.
Actually Huangshan City serves as a transport hub. If you go to Wuyuan County you should also take a bus from Tunxi. You may take the first bus which sets off at 6:40 every morning or you may take the second bus which sets off at 8:20 every other morning on even days every month. The second bus is specifically targeted to tourists so it is better conditioned and travels faster than the first one and stops only at big stations midway. The two buses arrive at Wuyuan at almost the same time: 11：30 a.m. If you want to go back to Tunxi, you can take a train from Wuyuan or from the nearby cities such as Jingdezhen, Jiujiang and Nanchang in Jiangxi Province. But most of the trains just pass by rather than start from those cities so you may find it is difficult to buy berth tickets.
In summer the weather is rather hot at the foot of Mount Huangshan, so you may put on T-shirts and shorts most of the time. The summer noon is typical of a thunder shower which is habitually occurring, which may not bother you too much, for the roaring thunders and the downpours usually last for a short while, and in an instant the sky clears up and the sun shines bright. In mountainous areas the temperature varies greatly between day and night so it is strongly advisable for you to bring a waterproof and breathable coat. Besides, you’d better bring sunscreen oils or cream for preventing yourself from being sunburned by the intense ultraviolet rays.
A. Shexian County: Doushan Street and Xuguo Stone Memorial Gateway
Doushan Street is an old street in Shexian town and Xu Guo Stone Memorial Gateway is located nearby in the same town. So between the two sites you can walk along the stream of people rather than take a vehicle. Xu Guo Stone Memorial Gateway is unique for its structure with four interconnected stone gates forming a splendid stereoscopic gateway.
Now Shexian town is the commercial center of Shexian County and it is as bustling as Wangfujing in Beijing and Beijing Road in Guangzhou. The old houses here have as many stories as the other old houses in Huizhou, but quietness has been long lost in the old town. So you may wander inside the old town, but do not have too much fantasy about it.
Tangyue Memorial Archways
Tangyue Stone Memorial Gateways Group enjoys a big fame. The admission ticket costs 50 RMB yuan which is rather high considering that you only see an array of stone memorial gateways, an ancestral hall and an ordinary village. The scenic spot is worth visiting but you may say the cost performance is poor.
Tangmo is a village. The admission ticket price is 30 RMB yuan. There is a water street here, also the main street in the village, which may bring you into an artistic conception created by small bridges over a flowing stream. The village is free from commercial atmosphere and retains well the harmonious aroma of the ancient villages. It is the most recommendable scenic spot in Shexian County.
Transport in Shexian County
After getting off from the railway station or the bus station in Shexian town, you can take a three-wheeled motor vehicle to the town center. On the rear of the motor vehicle a shed-like iron sheet is welded forming a roof which can be weatherproof but makes deafening sound on a bumpy road. Shexian County seems to have no other alternative for you to choose as a vehicle. However, one advantage of the three-wheeled motor vehicle is that it costs you only 2 RMB yuan to go to any place inside the town and as mentioned above, Doushan Street and Xu Guo Stone Archway are situated inside the town.
Tangyue Memorial Archways is between 7 and 8 kilometers away from the county town. You can take a bus bound for Huangshan City and ask the bus driver to drop you at a main road junction near Tangyue Memorial Archways. After that you can ask a motor cycle driver to take you there. You may also choose to take a motor cycle from the county town. The one-way ticket from the county town to Tangyue Memorial Archways costs 5 RMB yuan. You’d better arrange a two-way drive before you set off and settle down the price with the driver. Only a few vehicles are available at the gate of the scenic spot. If you take a vehicle incidentally there, you will inevitably be overcharged by the driver.
A country road will take you from Tangyue Memorial Archways to Tangmo, and a motor cycle drive will take about 15 minutes. Remind you that you should settle down the price for a two-way drive with the driver before you go from Tangyue Memorial Archways, or from the county town, or from the main road junction.
Accommodation in Shexian County
Quite a number of hotels are available in Shexian county town, but most of them are private and their conditions vary. The price at off season is between 30 and 100 RMB yuan per night. If you want to live comfortably you can choose Ziyang Hotel or Dahua Hotel which may be counted as designated to tourists. In addition, it is absolutely no need for you to accept the offer of a motor cycle driver who wants to bring you to find a hotel. You just ask him to bring you to the county town where you can find a hotel by yourself. Since Huangshan City is only 28 kilometers away from Shexian County town, you can choose to go back to Huangshan City for it is very convenient for you to take a vehicle to other scenic spots the next day.
B. Yixian: Nanping and Guanlu
Nanping and Guanlu are situated on the same direction and both of them well keep the primitive simplicity most probably because of a late development. Except for the entrance where the ticket office is each of the two villages is as quiet and peaceful as any ordinary mountain village in Southern Anhui Province, far from the hustling noise usually heard in some other scenic spots. In Nanping, I came across a tour group of students whereas in Guanlu, only I strolled alone in the village, which made me feel so good.
There once lived Eight Great Men of Guanlu in Guanlu village and actually they were brothers of the same surname in an extended family that possessed most of the houses in the village. After Land Reforming the houses were distributed to the ordinary peasant families. Dilapidated as they are, many houses still look exquisite with sophisticated construction, which may remind us of the splendor of the family in its heyday. The admission ticket price for Nanping is 20 RMB yuan and for Guanlu 15 RMB yuan.
Hong village seems to be much livelier than the other villages. There are many tourists in the alleys in the village so you can imagine what a sight will be during peak tourist season. Many students who learn painting come here in groups to paint from nature. Photographers also come here in groups for creation. The most remarkable feature of Hong village is that there is a lake outside where the sight is very beautiful. Although it is crowded and full of business atmosphere, the village does not lose its elegance. The admission ticket costs 80 RMB yuan, which seems to be a little bit high. The best moment of Hong village comes at dusk or in the early morning when everything looks so tranquil and peaceful, free from the hubbub in daytime.
Wood Carving Mansion and Tachuan
Neither Wood Carving Mansion nor Tachuan is far from Hong Village. In the past Wood Carving Mansion belonged to a big family. The name came from the exquisite wood carvings inside. Except the out wall built of grey bricks and the inside floor, everything inside is made up by wood structure with elaborate carvings. Besides, many wood carvings were done with deep relief carving skills. One distinctive feature of the ancient buildings in Huizhou is the wide use of wood carvings, brick carvings and stone carvings. Although a large number of fine wood carvings can be found in other ancient villages in Huizhou, the wood carvings of such a scope and of such an exquisite craftsmanship is said to be found only in Wood Carving Mansion. So it is worth visiting and the admission ticket price is 28 RMB yuan.
Tachuan is accessible from Hong Village by walking along an earth road for about two or three kilometers. The sights of Tachuan are extremely beautiful. In the splendor of the bright sun, trees, terraced fields and the small Hui-style village make up a picturesque scene with multi colors blended in harmony. Most of the visitors are photographers who carry various kinds of cameras, camera lenses and tripods. If you take to photographing, rolls of rolls of films will be “killed” in Tachuan.
Xieli and Mukeng Villages
Xieli is known as a colorful world where plants of varied species and terraced fields are multi-colored. Mukeng is a sea of bamboos. The scene in which Chow Yun-Fat is flying among the bamboo tops in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was shot here. You can go to the two places from Hong Village but the distance is quite long; besides, there is no regular bus so you have to charter a vehicle.
Xidi keeps hundreds of houses built in Ming and Qing dynasties. The buildings and the roads are constructed of marbles. Two clear streams wind across the village. Ninety nine deep lanes with high walls along will make the tourists feel like placed in a maze. The quintessence of the ancient Chinese art is well embodied in the splendid residential houses, ingenious gardens, door frames built of black marbles, ornamental perforated windows, the images of exotic flowers and rare herbs and birds and animals in stone carvings, the pictures of towers and pavilions and the images of the characters in some classical operas in brick carvings, the exquisite wood carvings, and the gorgeous colored drawings and murals. Both Xidi and Hong Village are listed as World Cultural Heritage and they have the same admission ticket price that is 80 RMB yuan.
Transport in Yixian County
The county town of Yixian covers a limited area without much fun. If you want have a look inside the town, you can spend less than 2 RMB yuan taking a three-wheeled motor cycle. However, the scenic spots in Yixian are far from the county town and the main vehicles here are the private vans that carry both passengers and commodities. If you want to go to a scenic spot you can come to the long-distance bus station to take a van. If you want to go to a distant scenic spot, you can charter a van which costs you less than 100 RMB yuan per day at off season. Of course you can bargain with the driver to make the price as low as possible.
If you want to go to Nanping you can take a van bound for Xiwu town. You can get off the van midway and walk along an earth road for about one kilometer. On condition that there are only several passengers on the van you may ask the driver to drive you directly to the entrance to Nanping, and generally speaking the driver will agree. Guanlu and Nanping are on the same direction. However the vans that go to Guanlu are rare and seldom available so you may take a one-hour walk from Nanping to Guanlu that is about 4 kilometers away. If you want to go back to the county town you can wait for a van at the entrance to Guanlu village. If it is not too late, you will get on a van bound for the county town within one hour. The drive will cost you between two and three RMB yuan.
If you want to go to Xidi you can take a minibus at the long-distance bus station. If you want to go to Hong Village you need to take a vehicle by the side of a bridge near the long-distance bus station for all the vehicles that go to Hong Village are waiting there for passengers. The drive will cost you 2 RMB yuan. Since Hong Village and Xidi began to be developed at an early time, there are many vehicles that will go back the county town at the entrance to both villages. Both Tachuan and Wood Carving Mansion are near Hong Village, so you may take a vehicle to go there or you may walk there for it is not a long walk. Xieli and Mukeng are far away from Hong Village so it seems that you have to charter a vehicle to go there.
Accommodation in Yixian County
There are many private hotels in the Yixian County town, so you may try to find a hotel by yourself with no need to ask someone to give you an introduction. Besides, along the road from the county town to Nanping there are two 3-plus-star hotels: Yixian Jingling Hotel and Zhongcheng Villa. The conditions there are not bad, and if you want to live a little better you can stay there. Generally speaking, it will cost you between 50 and 60 RMB yuan per night to stay in a private hotel.
There are many hotels in Hong Village, too. Accommodation price here is almost the same to that for the hotels in the county town but you will feel better to live here. Highly recommendable are Shurentang Hotel and Jushantang Hotel, both of which are situated inside the village and have extremely pleasant atmosphere. Therefore the accommodation prices are a little bit higher than those for ordinary rural hotels.