The Quaintest village In China? Hongcun

“Bu kaifa, bu kaifa 不开发” it hasn’t been developed for tourism. That was our driver’s favourite motto.
So he took us to the “bu kaifa” village of Hongcun 洪村

Ancient villages of Wuyuan,,One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)
洪村婺源

Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province).

The quaintest Village in China might be Hongcun 洪村. Hongcun, is surrounded by drop-dead gorgeous sub-tropical scenery. It is home to some wonderful Huizhou architecture and when we visited; no tourists

From the diary

Is this the quaintest village in China? After a copious and excellent lunch, which was at a restaurant opposite a huge ancient tree and seemed to be a favourite with tourist drivers, our man ( the driver) then took us to a remote and completely ‘undeveloped (bu kaifa 不开发)’ village called Hongcun  (not to be confused with its more famous namesake in Anhui near Huangshan), where there wasn’t an entrance ticket or single other tourist in sight.

Ancient villages of Wuyuan,,One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

The place was extremely pretty and peaceful: on the outside, a line of elegantly greying houses stood beside a clear river winding its way through the rice fields.

Ancient villages of Wuyuan, one of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

Stunning Hongcun Village Wuyuan

Contented-looking ducks floated on the water, bamboo poles loaded with washing swayed gently in the wind, while farmers in conical hats tended to their fields.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

In the narrow, shady streets towards the centre, local residents sat outside their doorways chatting, playing cards and cutting vegetables.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

We found some people busy restoring a spacious wooden community hall. In fact, in spite of its lack of (tourist) development,  the buildings in Hongcun were in remarkable shape and had some of the most intricate wooden carvings we’d come across.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

A Relaxing Afternoon in Stunning Hongcun village

We sat down on a stone bench in the shade of a drapping tree to enjoy a lukewarm beer, bought from a hole-in-the wall shop without a fridge, and let ourselves drift into the unhurried pace of village life.

Ancient villages of Wuyuan, One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

The locals, obviously not used to having foreigners in the village, eyed us up with friendly curiosity, often directing questions to our driver about who we were and what we were doing there.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province) Ancient villages of Wuyuan,

With the hearty lunch now weighing heavy on our stomachs, making us feel both comatose and soporific, we just let our driver exaggerate our importance to the villagers.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province) Ancient villages of Wuyuan,

We were now distinguished professors from a great overseas university and not merely humble English teachers from a university in Madrid; the locals seemed impressed and nodded approvingly at his every Word. Our driver was lapping it up!

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province) Ancient villages of Wuyuan,
Pity about the pipe ruining the photo

Normally, we would have underplayed our importance and protested our driver’s flattery, but we let it rest and everyone seemed contented. It was a perfect day and even the warm beer went down well!

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province) Ancient villages of Wuyuan,

Update: Hongcun has changed

As with everything in China in this century nothing withstands the changes of time and Hongcun is no exception. The village is now defiantly very Kaifa 不开发 (developed) for tourists. However, it is still beautiful and I am sure that on an off-peak day it can still be a lovely place to visit.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

Some of the buildings have undergone tasteful restoration and the ancestor halls and guild halls that were being used for weaving and chili drying are now housing museums and teahouses.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

Getting there and away:

Difficult when we visited. A hired car was the best option. Hongcun is located between Dazhang Mountain and Sixi and not too far from the famous Rainbow Bridge.

For more photos click on read more:

Continue reading “The Quaintest village In China? Hongcun”

Yancun Village: Wuyuan

Yancun Village Wuyuan Beautiful old Huizhou style houses
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

Yancun 延村 village Wuyuan 婺源 Jiangxi Province

Yancun village Wuyuan is remnant of an age of prosperity in this part of hidden China. Rich merchants who made fortunes in the big cities sent their money back to their ancestral villages to build stately homes in a style known as Huizhou Architecture. Yancun is one one of those villages.

A kilometre away from Cixi lies the village of Yancun, even less kaifa (developed) than Cixi, and with an equally impressive collection of buildings.

Beautiful old Huizhou style houses Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

Walking in Wuyuan

It’s a pleasant walk between the two villages (500 meters), either along the quiet road or through the rice fields. Interestingly, both villages have marked a walking route to allow the visitor to explore the best examples of Huizhou architecture.

Yancun Village Wuyuan Beautiful old Huizhou style houses
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

If you don’t wish to follow the routes it doesn’t really matter, as every turn of a corner and every side- alley provide a new voyage into time.

Beautiful old Huizhou style houses Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

Huizhou Style Architecture

Yancun is a compact village of Huizhou style architecture, a style that originated in neighbouring Anhui Province.

Yancun Village Wuyuan Beautiful old Huizhou style houses
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

The style and is characterized by two, sometimes three story buildings; depending on the wealth and ostentatiousness of the person who built them.  On the outside, the walls are white and the roofs black tiled with eaves.

Wicker basket making Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 weaving

Inside the buildings there is a hall /patio that usually has elaborately carved wooden frames hanging above it. Sometimes there is are more than one hall /patio.

Old streets Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 street scene

Life in Yancun

Yancun’s streets are a rabbit warren of narrow alleyways and passageways that entice the curious vistor to poke their noses around every corner.

Beautiful old Huizhou style houses Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 interior

Local residents didn’t seem fazed if you politely asked look around a private house and take a few snaps ( might have something to the money they receive from the entrance ticket to the Sixi 思系and Yancun 延村 scenic area).

Old Chinese kitchen
延村婺源江西省 old Kitchen

Yancun also offers the opportunity to come across still-in-use, ages old farm implements. These can be seen casually lying around on kitchen floors or hanging off living room walls. In the west, they would be expensive antiques sold in flea markets and rastros around Europe.

old chinese farm tools
延村婺源江西省 Farmer’s hat

Every available space on the streets is used for drying something, especially chilies, which are laid out in large flat wicker baskests while and huge gourds dangle everywhere above your head.

chilis and gourds  Yancun 延村
延村婺源江西省 drying Chilis

Besides the Huizhou houses, there are a least three famous ancestral halls in Yancun; the Congting Hall, Mingxun Hall and Yuqing Hall.

transporting beer in a cart
延村婺源江西省 Transporting beer

All of them were originally built in the 18th century. What you see now may not be the original structure, as they are reported to have undergone restoration and some rebuilding since then.

old baskets Yancun 延村
延村婺源江西省 Hanging Baskets

When we visited, some these ancestral halls were still being used as spaces for basket weaving and other farming related activities. Nowadays, the halls are a ‘must see’ for passing Chinese tour groups.

drying chilis Yancun 延村
延村婺源江西省 Drying chilis Yancun

The Mingxun hall has become a teahouse (not surprising given it was originally built by a tea merchant) and the Yuqing hall, has become a museum for antique furniture.

Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

However, the real charm in Yancun as mentioned at the beginning, is its idyll rural setting. Yancun is a village set up for gentle strolling and imbibing a fast disappearing way of life.

Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province
Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province
Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

Accomodation:

We stayed at a small family hotel on the edge of Cixi 思系, the only brick and white tile building around. At the front, there was an open-fronted grocery shop and a restaurant. The clean and simple rooms with bathroom and hot water (no towels or toiletries though, so be prepared) were in a new building at the back and cost 80 Yuan for a large double.

Beautiful old Huizhou style houses in the Villages of Wuyaun 婺源: Yancun 延村
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

There were plenty of cheaper options in private houses in the village, and you can expect the offer to increase in the future. It is probably only a matter of time before some of those beautiful mansions will be converted into real hotels.

Photo of the Week: Wuyuan and around

In 2003 while killing time between classes, I lazily typed into Google “the most beautiful village in China” and up came a few entries, one of which was written by a local girl from a place called Wuyuan. In poor English she raved about the beautiful scenery in this remote area of Jiangxi province. The few photos that accompanied her article showed picturesque white villages of superb Huizhou Architecture and rolling green fields brightened by the stunning yellow of ripening rape seed.

Ancient Villages of Wuyuan
The undeveloped Village of Hongcun 洪村

In the next few weeks we will be uploading our photos of the villages in the Wuyuan area. We based ourselves in the bucolic and sleepy village of Sixi 思溪村 and spent several days hiking between villages and occasionally hiring a car to those village further afield.

Ancient Villages of Wuyuan
Basket Weavers at work in Yancun 延村

Among the villages we visited were the undiscovered gems of Yancun 延村 and Hongcun 洪村 (now both very much discovered) as well as more Kaifa 开发 / developed places such as Likeng 李坑 and Upper上 and Lower下 Xiaoqi 晓起.

Sixi ancient village wuyuan jiangxi China
The Yin Yang bridge in Sixi思溪村

Jingdezhen Porcelain City

A worker meticulously paints a porcelain vase in Jingdezhen; the city known for producing the world’s finest porcelain

potters at work in Jingdezhen; the Land of Porcelain
A painter in Jingdezhen meticulously paints a porcelain vase.

Jingdezhen Porcelain City

Jingdezhen Porcelain City is the place to go if you want to see where they make the real mccoy. It is a city that lives and literally breathes porcelain (especially from the smoke stacks).

Click here for more on Jingdezhen

potters at work in Jingdezhen; the Land of Porcelain
A painter in Jingdezhen meticulously paints a porcelain vase.

Photos of Jingdezhen

In this post there are just a few of the many photos we have on the original blog posting. Furthermore,the photos cover the city, artist rooms and the beautiful porcelain museum on the outskirts of the town.

Beautiful porcelain in Jingdezhen; the Land of Porcelain
Recently glazed Porcelain bowls waiting for a new owner in Jingdezhen

Killing an afternoon in Nanchang

What to do if you find yourself stuck in Nanchang 南昌 for an afternoon waiting for onward transport.

kungfu Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Killing an afternoon in Nanchang is something you may well have to do if you are passing through on the way to more interesting nearby destinations.

Nanchang will never win any beauty contests. In the summer it is a polluted furnace; and in the winter its a polluted grey, damp and pretty miserable place to be.

singing Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must see memorabilia has its limits

Barring some Communist Party must see memorabilia, enticing sights to visit are conspicuous by their absence and a sightseeing tour of Nanchang won’t last too long.

Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

However, Nanchang is the capital of the much under explored Jiangxi Province, and as such, it acts as a useful transport hub for reaching some of Jiangxi’s wondrous sights. These include the area of Wuyuan, Jinggangshan, Longmen and many more; you will undoubtably find yourself passing through. So what to do?

Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Hang out in the Parks

There is something for everyone in Nanchang’s central parks (these photos were taken in Ren Min Gong Yuan 人民公园 people’s Park in the center of the city). A cold beer on a hot day, warm tea and opera singers brighten up any dull moment in the winter, and Taijiquan 太極拳 practise all year round.

Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Marial Arts

Martial Arts masters teach young enthusiastic kids the ropes: the expert we saw had drawn a huge crowd of onlookers and his pupils must have felt like the Kung fu stars of old as people applauded their every move (especially the parents). The master was always less impressed, finding fault in everything and urging improvement and concentration.

musicians Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Traditional Opera

Musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments and Chinese opera singers show off their skills in front of large spontaneous audiences.

traditional opera Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

The clanging and bashing of drums and symbols reverberate around every corner of the huge park as does the high pitch shrill of the singers.

Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Karaoke competitions

Then there are the various Karaoke competitions. Young wannabe stars blurt out famous Chinese pop songs to mixed reactions.

karaoke Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

A critical and discerning audience never doubted in giving the thumbs up or down. In China, that means a rapturous applause, or a stony, uncomfortable silence at the end of each song.

playing chess Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Peace and Quiet

For those looking for more peaceful activities, they seem to while away their time away playing Chinese chess, sipping tea and chatting to friends. And for the  one day visitor, there is plenty of activity to keep you enticed during an afternoon, and if tea is not to your liking, there are plenty of vendors selling beer and snacks.

Killing an afternoon in Nanchang 南昌: Jiangxi Province 江西省

Jinggangshan 井冈山 ( The red Cradle 红色摇篮)


Looking out over the beautiful scenery below, swaying bamboo, azaleas and landscaped lakes, I couldn’t help congratulating Mao Zedong on his choice of a hideout: what could be better than an abundance of fresh water, healthy crops and great scenery on top?  I find it difficult to believe that this was once a remote impoverished area, ripe for revolutionary mobilization. Jingganshan is where Mao and his faithful right-hand man Zhu De built up the Red Army almost from scratch, after a number of failed uprisings in nearby Nanchang and Changsha in1927.

A  Brief History


Mao used his stay in Jinggangshan to put into practice his ideas on rural revolution; testing what type of peasants would support revolution – generally the poorest ones – and which peasants would oppose it. Quite often, the analysis simply came down to whether the peasant owned a pig or not. Any pig-owning peasant could be considered rich, and therefore reactionary. Besides theorizing, Mao relentlessly worked on consolidating his position in power, ruthlessly exterminating any opposition, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of loyal members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Still, Mao found his fortunes in Jinggangshan rise and fall several times. He was successful in repelling efforts by Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Army to take Jinggangshan by using guerrilla tactics to make up for the double drawback of the Red Army’s inferior numbers and the Nationalists’ modern weaponry. However, he found his position in the CCP continually challenged, especially when the party leadership was forced out of the cities and moved into Jinggangshan. They often criticised Mao over his military tactics, and eventually they won the day. Mao was sidelined and the CCP leadership, under the instruction of Russian advisors, decided to abandon the guerrilla strategy and engage the Nationalist forces head on. The consequences were disastrous and resulted in a series of heavy reversals for the Communists. Eventually, finding themselves completely surrounded, the Communist forces broke out of their Jinggangshan stronghold and embarked upon what became known as the Long March.

Jinggangshan Today


Today, Jinggangshan is a must- see tourist hotspot for millions of Chinese. However, the reasons for visiting have radically changed over the years. Long gone are the days when millions of Red Guards would descend upon the town to pay homage to the Great Helmsman. These days, tourists come to enjoy Continue reading “Jinggangshan 井冈山 ( The red Cradle 红色摇篮)”

From Our Diary: Changsha to Jinggangshan 3/9/2003

Wednesday 3/9 – The bus to Jinggangshan


As we had established on yesterday’s exploratory visit to the bus station, there were two buses, a modern one and an old one, covering the Changsha – Jinggangshan route.  And, as Adam had already glumly predicted, today’s bus is the old one…

Clutching our tickets, we walk out, looking for our bus. When we eventually find it, Adam’s worst fears are confirmed but, for once, he is absolutely right: it is definitely the worst-looking vehicle in the whole station, by far! Continue reading “From Our Diary: Changsha to Jinggangshan 3/9/2003”

Jingdezhen (Porcelain City)景德镇

Jingdezhen: the Porcelain City
Porcelain-Bowls

Jingdezhen: the Porcelain City

porcelain traffic lights in Jingdezhen: the Porcelain City
Traffic Light Jingdezhen (not our photo; have lost original source).

Imagine a city where the street lights, traffic lights and just about any other public amenity are made of porcelain: this is Jingdezhen, one of China’s foremost Porcelain Cities!

porcelain speakers in Jingdezhen: the Porcelain City

Here, crowded street markets flog almost anything imaginable, from plain crockery to huge, tacky vases and life-size Buddha’s, all made of porcelain, while the chimneys of the kilns belch black smoke into the sky.

Jingdezhen Porcelain City 景德镇
Porcelain from the Imperial Kilns is what converted Jingdezhen into a household name in China and worldwide too; at least for those in the know. Production dates back well over a thousand years.

potter at work in Jingdezhen Porcelain City 景德镇
Jingdezhen

In times past, the finest pieces would be sent to the palaces of China’s emperors and the ruling elite. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Europe discovered the quality of the porcelain produced at Jingdezhen and, as a result, a huge export market sprung up, which only added to the city’s prestige.

potter at work in Jingdezhen Porcelain City 景德镇
Cramped conditions

While location and river transportation may have contributed to Jingdezhen’s growth, it is the reputed quality of the eponymous clay found at Gaoling village, just a few kilometres outside the city that has turned it into the centre of China’s porcelain industry.

 Jingdezhen Porcelain City 景德镇
Porcelain bowls

Today, the business is still thriving with factories continuing to pump out a haze of dirty smoke. While most of these factories have now been moved to the outskirts, the occasional hidden kiln can still be found in what remains of the dwindling, historic old town.

Jingdezhen Porcelain City 景德镇

Street markets sell the bulk of the cheap and roughly made porcelain goods, while plusher shops deal in the more exquisite pieces. If you are not an expert, the rule of thumb is caution, as there are apparently many fakes that abuse the trade mark ‘made in Jingdezhen’. However, there are plenty of cheap curios that make good souvenirs.

Jingdezhen Porcelain City 景德镇
Huizhou style house

Whether you are interested in buying porcelain products or not, we certainly weren’t, as a backpacking overland trip to Tibet is hardly the ideal way of transporting a fragile vase, a visit to Jingdezhen is well worth it. For one, Continue reading “Jingdezhen (Porcelain City)景德镇”

Wuyuan and surrounding Villages

Discovering Wuyuan

wyn2.jpg

About 3 years ago while killing time between classes, I lazily typed into Google “the most beautiful village in China” and up came a few entries, one of which was written by a local girl from a place called Wuyuan. In poor English she raved about the beautiful scenery in this remote area of Jiangxi province. The few photos that accompanied her article showed picturesque white villages of superb Huizhou Architecture and rolling green fields brightened by the stunning yellow of ripening rape seed.

wyn51.jpg

Immediately hooked, I typed in the word “Wuyuan” directly into Google and found a few more entries, which enabled me to locate the place and figure out how to get there. Over the following months and years the number of entries for Wuyuan in Google increased steadily, as did my interest in visiting the area. Last year we finally had the chance to do so, and below is what we found.

Wuyuan TownThe actual town of Wuyuan is not particularly attractive; in fact, it is fairly boring. Wide avenues streets, white-tile buildings and Chinese-style town planning – i.e. a newly-built ‘traditional’ wooden bridge leading up to a giant empty square with bizarre sculptures and tacky fairy lights – have left Wuyuan devoid of any character it might once have had.

wyn6.jpg

However, don’t be put off by first impressions; the town of Wuyuan is really nothing more than a gateway to a fascinating area of the same name which is home to some of China’s most charming and unspoilt villages. Moreover, if you need to spend a night here, hotels are cheap and plentiful and the restaurants around town aren’t bad.

wyn81.jpg

The villages of Wuyuan are a showcase of China’s Huizhou architecture, developed by rich merchants from the area of Huangshan (as Huizhou is now known). Having made their fortunes from the relocation of the Imperial capital to Hangzhou in 1132, they wished to construct houses and temples that reflected their wealth. Huizhou mansions are two or three-storied white-washed buildings, set around one or more courtyards with sloped roofs, designed to collect the maximum amount of rainwater. Principles of geomancy were extremely important to the layout of the houses, as the merchants were interested in accumulation riches and good fortune. The collection of rainwater was symbolic of their desire for accumulation. Over time, the merchants branched out into other areas of business and spread all over China, leaving behind a legacy of beautiful mansions.

wyn7.jpg

Nowadays, the valleys and hills of the lush and fertile area of Wuyuan are still dotted with whole clusters of these beautiful, white two-story buildings with eaved roofs and exquisitely carved beams and doorways. Spring is the ideal time to visit…..For more go to:HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

wyn3.jpg