Hongcun / Xidi
This morning after eating in the hotel, I was taken to Hongcun and Xidi Villages. I love ancient villages and was worried that since Hongcun and Xido had been added to UNESCO's World Heritage List and has become a very famous destination that it would be painfully touristy and like a theme park.
I was delighted to find that that was not the case. There were many little shops of course, but they were located in ancient buildings and were not intrusive. Hongcun was the first village we visited. After buying a ticket we walked along a path running next to a perfectly calm pond with a stone pathway and arched bridge crossing it. There were many students sitting along the pond painting it. We crossed the pathway and bridge, which was used in the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The village is located on the other side of the pond.
We entered an alley and started exploring. The architecture styles of the buildings are very different from other villages I have been to in China. The ancient houses had large gates opening to the street and upon entering visitors found themselves in the great hall of the house. There is a huge skylight which opens to the sky to allow light and air in. the houses were covered in gorgeous carvings and filled with beautiful antiques. People are still living in these ancestral houses and it really makes these villages feel alive and not touristy.
One major aspects of the village is water. There are canals down almost every street and each house is connected to the water system and fresh water flows through each house. No villager is allowed to dump anything or clean anything in the canals until after 9:00am. That way the water in them is clean in the early morning and villagers only need step out their front door to get buckets of fresh water for their daily uses. I went into one house that had its own pond built inside a small courtyard in the middle of a room. The water flowed right through the house. It was amazing. You know, the more time I spend in China, the more I get amazed by its culture and history.
The houses were spectacular. After Hongcun we went to Xidi Village. At the entrance of the village is an ancient stone gate. It was built in honor of a single man. It was very intricately carved and extremely beautiful. The houses in the village are similar to Hongcun, but had very different details. It had a totally different feeling than Hongcun did. It also did not feel touristy either and very comfortable. There were many gardens in the houses' courtyards and they could be seen from the gate. The villagers were obviously quite proud of their gardens and loved it when people looked in to check them out.
We explored the village and its many mansions. The reason that these two villages have such amazing architecture is that many of the residents were businessmen and very successful. They went out and made their fortune and upon returning built splendid mansions. After exploring for about an hour April suggested we go to lunch. We walked to the back of the village to a house nestled amongst bamboo groves. I was thrilled to find out that it was where we were having lunch. The house is filled with antiques and we got to eat lunch in the houses great room in antique chairs eating at an antique table. The food was exceptional.
The women of the house cooked very simple Chinese food that was so delicious. After lunch we strolled through the bamboo groves before heading back to the car. I was driven to the bus station for my trip to Hangzhou. April escorted me to the bus and said goodbye. I'll miss her. She was a lot of fun.