A. Brief Introduction
Praised as a world outside the world due to its unpolluted harmony of Nature and Man-made Culture.
Among all the rural complexes of South Anhui Province, Xidi and Hongcun are the most typical and renowned.
Xidi Village proper is composed of more than 300 civil residences, most of which were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Backed by picturesque hills and towering ancient woods, this village is noted for the harmony of its architecture and its colorful fields. The residential buildings are mostly black and white. The decorations all display a strong flavor of the Ming and Qing dynasties. In the houses, there are collections of precious calligraphy and handicrafts. Potted plants, fishing pools and flowerbeds give the whole village a sense of harmony with Nature and Man made Culture.
Hongcun Village is most noted for its overall design that resembles the shape of an ox. Principal Street connects the South Lake and the Moon Pond to the north and south, respectively. The ancient Academy of the South Lake (Nanhu Shuyuan) casts its shadow in the lake and makes a tranquil scene together with ancient trees and graceful buildings around it.
B. Cultural Heritage
Yi County, to the southwest of Mt. Huangshan, dates from the Qin Dynasty. Throughout more than two millennia, it has enjoyed peace, and kept its original flavor of natural beauty and cultural creativity. It was once called the source of the plum-blossoms (Taohuayuan), a much-quoted term for a secluded paradise in Chinese literature. The great Tang Dynasty poet Li Po (Li Bai) also wrote a poem in praise of it.
The inhabitants, originally people of the State of Yue, are renowned for their sense of independence and respect for culture and tradition.
Thanks to such traits and centuries of earnest efforts, about 3,000 buildings survive intact from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Even the smallest details of the domestic decorations are now incarnations of the time-honored civilization of China.
A typical traditional residence of southern Anhui Province is usually divided into three parts. With ingenious arrangement, the whole space always looks unified and neat, as well as flexible and lively. Rooms are usually built symmetrically, with the main halls in the middle, flanked by side halls. Stairs are installed in the main hall, and an indoor skylight is made near the entrance for lighting and ventilation.
The roofs of the rural buildings are basically shaped like upturned half-opened books, with raised beams or gable roofs. The outside wall is covered with black tiles in rippling or curling shapes, dotted with only small yet well-decorated windows. The main gate, framed in local blocks, usually has richly-decorated door casing made of stones or bricks.
D. Landscape Gardens
Most of the family gardens are built in the front of the courtyard, while some are beside or behind the building. Small as these gardens are, they are always designed with great originality and embody a profound poetic quality. The space is often divided, transformed and re-organized by hollowed windows, doors, screens, flowers or plants, giving an intricate sense of refreshment.