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