I was born in China, stayed there for 22 years. But 98% of the time there I was in one city, Beijing — my hometown. It wasn’t accessible to travel, to see or to discovery. When I realized that I wanted to know about the land, I was already 8k kilometers away.
China is the place where I called home, but I know so little about it. It creates a very diverse culture with 56 different nations and 80 different languages. There everything changes but the core culture continuous for thousands of years. I would like to find out more about culture, history, people and everything else, bit by bit. Nowadays, I visit China once per year. It might take more than 60 years to accomplish what I have in mind. It is long, but it is a start.
For a start, I chose Anhui. It is also known as Huizhou in the old days. It is the place where was mentioned a lot by my first painting teacher. He said, “as a person who practices “ShuiMo” (one of the traditional painting style), you must go to the area. Not only to get inspired by the most beautiful mountains and architecture but also to show respect to the masters from there, those who create the best ink and ink stones for your painting materials.”
HuiZhou didn’t disappoint me. I had around seven days there. I knew it was not enough, but I did not want to travel in a hurry. Every day, just look, walk, eat, drink tea and be idle. Stay around like a local.
Day 1, RuCun Village （儒村）
This village is not part of the plan at all. It is just a typical village at the foot of Huang Mountain where I am longing to see. I decided to stay in RuCun village because I wanted to avoid the most crowded touristic places.
There is no much information on the internet about the village at all. It is tiny, and people there are just farmers. Before the trip, I didn’t expect anything. I was planning to stay in the lovely hotel and read books.
It took around 30 mins by taxi from the airport to the village. The view on the way is good. The countryside is pretty clean and organized. It is different from my memories.
After arrival, the owner of the hotel gave me a short intro and invited me for tea. He told me that the hotel was newly built and specially designed to show a combination of traditional and modern Huizhou. As someone who cares about aesthetic part of everything, I would say that I like it. Especially the tea room: water, stone, hidden doors, all those traditional elements are displayed with an elegant and clean look. I wanted to spend my day just there drinking the famous local green tea — Mao Feng (One of the best green team types) until the hotel owner said that I could use the bikes freely. I always liked cycling. So without hesitation, I changed my plan.
After a short break, I took out my camera and started discovering RuCun. By the way, the bike is the best I’ve ever cycled with, many thanks to the hotel owner.
Photos below correctly show what I saw and what I felt, quiet and peaceful.
There was a bridge took my attention. No name, not very beautiful, but somehow attracted me. Normal is its charm.
Time passed fast. To avoid cycle in the dark, I went back to the hotel and had a nice dinner.
Day 2, Huang Mountain （黄山）
Huang Mountain has its fame for more than a thousand years already. I never really believed it. A mountain is a mountain. How different could it be? Now I see it. Spectacular! Amazing! I was speechless.
One day trip was too short for it. I will go back! Next time, I will live on top of the mountain! See the sunset and wait for the sunrise! Capture the cloud sea! Remember every pine tree and every stone!
There are severe hiking routes you could follow, just buy a map from tourist information office. They will give you an intro. Also getting a tour guide is not expensive. Around 20 Euros, someone leads you to 5 hours hiking trip and talk you through the history and stories. It is not a bad deal.
I believed that I had a good condition, so I made a 2-days route into a 1-day plan: I run a lot, saw a lot, no regrets. But next day, I couldn’t move at all. I couldn’t lift my legs for even one stair.
Day 3, ChengKan Village and Mukeng Bamboo forest. （呈坎）
ChengKan Village is a unique one. Not only because it is around 1800 years old, but also it is built on a natural “Ying-Yang” diagram landscape. I am not an expert, but base on what I know, finding a place which matches what best “Fengshui” theory describes sounds impossible. Plus the place is not like a 100-square-meters yard. It is a village.
I grow up in Beijing where tradition changes with political power all the time. Things don’t last very long there. So I am very curious about places where the traditions have been kept for thousands of years and even still in use. To know more, I got a tour guide. To be honest, I was surprised by the tour guide service for the whole trip, they were professional, and the price was fair. My tour guide was younger than me. She went out for studying and then decided to come back to hometown for a comparably simple life.
Walking along the narrow streets; being sounded by buildings older than my grand-grand-grand grandparents; hearing stories why things are layout this way or that way: l enjoyed time like this.
Day 4–5, HongCun Village （宏村）
HongCun is the most famous village in HuiZhou. People always say, “When something becomes too famous, it is not interesting anymore.” I also try to avoid favorite places most of the time, but for HongCun I will make an exception.
Rummer always comes with some facts. Indeed HongCun is crowded compared to other villages. But if you were patient, it was able to take a photo without people.
HongCun is different from Chengkan. Even if they have similar age and they are from the same family, but still, you feel the character differences. If I would say that Chengkan was a beautiful lady who takes cares of every detail of herself, HongCun was more like a strong man who has a lot of life experiences. HongCun is more prominent, more sophisticated and more complete.
People lived in HongCun all have one family name “Wang” (汪). In the old days, the number of buildings showed how rich and powerful this family was. Looking at this “Wang” family, you could feel the glory. If you talked to people there, they would proudly tell you that their ancestor was the top officer or respectful professor in the old days.
I was fortunate in choosing hotels. I didn’t live in the village, but somewhere like 20 mins walk from it. The hotel locates next to a farm field. Views through the window are very relaxing. I liked to sit in the main hall, looked outside and drank tea with people who work there. We chat about the area and their life. For someone who doesn’t live in the country, it was an excellent opportunity to get a glance at how people live.
Day 6–7, Xidi Village （西递）
After HongCun, Xidi is not “Surprising” anymore. But it was the last place of the trip. Everything just became more precious. Personally, I am a big fan of Huizhou’s architecture style. Black roofs and white walls which reminds me the “ShuiMo” painting. The spirit of living in “Daojia” philosophy way.
For the last destination, I decided to stay inside the village. Luckily, I booked a place which has 800 years old history. When I touch the pillar, I was so gentle. It felt like I could break it. If there were previous life, this pillar would see ten lives of me.
HuiZhou is the places where I recommend if you are into a different culture or you get bored of big cities. Nature, architecture, countryside life, and tradition are the keys words for the region.
It is not easy to travel around by public transportation. I would recommend choosing a good hotel which has a comparably high price and not directly in the heart of the tourist attractions. For European standard the rate is reasonable, but you get an excellent service and a beautiful Chinese interior design. You can ask the hotel owner to organize a driver and a car. It took around 80 euros per day. They can take you to all the places you need. If you have time and energy, cycling around is another option. Views on the road are delightful, but it means 4–5 hours cycle from one village to another or even days.
Note: photos are take by Wesley. All rights reserved.