Hongcun is located in the southwestern foot of Mt. Huangshan and about 11 kilometers off the southwest of Yixian County. In ancient time, it's the only access to Beijing to do business from Yixian. The whole village covers an area of about 28 hectares. The place which is classed as old village spreads 19.11 hectares of land.
Hongcun was first founded in the Shaoxing period of the Southern Song Dynasty (about AD. 1131-1162), with a history of about 900 years. Hongcun was first called "Hongcun (another Chinese word with the same pronunciation)". According to the record of Pedigree of Wang Clan, because it was enlarged to the shape of the Taiyi elephant at that time, it was acclaimed as Hongcun. In the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty, its name was changed into Hongcun.
Hongcun is the main village where Wang families live together. Wang clan is a respectable family in Central Plains. Because of moving to the south at the end of the Han dynasty, the descendants of Wang clan spread every parts of the south of the lower reaches of the Changjiang River. The ancestral home of Wang clan is Jinling. In the Southern Song Dynasty, it moved to Huizhou. They are the earliest ancestor of Huncun.
The allocation of the whole village looks like the shape of cow. The erect Leigang Mountain is regarded as the head of the cow, the old green and shadowy trees spread the whole mountain are the horn of the cow, the long lines of buildings in the village are the body of the cow, the glittering lake is the belly of the cow, crooked manmade canals which run through houses are the intestine of the cow, and four wood bridges near the village are the legs of the cow. Hongcun looks like a sleeping cow located among the hill which is surrounded by the green mountain and a large rambling rice fields.
Hongcun is 18 kilometers away from Xidi(introduced later). The climates are similar.
Among the Folk Residences, the Chengzhi Hall is touted as the Folk Summer Place, which is engraved carefully and covered with gold and painted with colors. The Dongxian Hall is vast and simple. The moon Pond is as even as a mirror. The water of the Southern Lake dances and sparkles. The simple Guanyin Shop is in the deep of the alley and beside the cyan stone street. There are old lofty tree on the Thunder Hillock and peonies with a history of over 100 years. Green bines climb on the wall and enter the yard of domestic houses. The Xuren Hall and Shangyuan Hall, the ancestral temples, are strict. The Southern Lake Academy is given the words of "Yiwen Family School" on the stele by 93-year-old Liangtongshu, Shijiang (a rank in the court) of the Imperial Academy. All these constructions constitute a perfect art whole with the Jingxiu Hall and Sanli Hall. One step is one view; one place is one picture. At the same time, these constructions reflect wide and deep cultural inside information which is left by long history. Till the Qiny Dynasty, Hongcun has become a big village with over 1000 families. Long lines of houses looks like a big city. Until now, Hongcun is still the site of the People's government of Hongcun Town. It starts to develop at the middle of the 1980s.
Hongcun has the system of streets and alleys which looks like square net. The ground is covered by granite stones. The manmade water system through all families forms unique space of Water Street and Alley. The village centers on "the heart of the cow"- the Moon Pond which is a crescent-shaped pond. It's surrounded by houses and ancestral temples. It exhibits strong cohesion. There are 158 domestic houses in existence, which were built in the Ming or Qing Dynasty. 137 houses of them are in a good state of preservation. The buildings of the Qing dynasty own not only beautiful surroundings, but also logical function layout.
The structure is elegant and blends closely with nature. It creates a scientific living environment, which is also full of affection. It's one outstanding representative of China's traditional domestic houses.
Most villagers divert water in canals into houses, and forms "House Garden" and "Water Yard" which exist only in village. This makes the construction of Hongcun inaugurate the special house pattern of water-side pavilion of Hui constructions. Hongcun is an outstanding representative of Huizhou traditional local culture, building techniques and landscape design. It is full of much value of history, art and science. It indeed is the witness of Huizhou traditional architectural culture. Hongcun has been listed into the Contents of World Cultural and Natural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The people of Hongcun built six family schools at the north bank of the Southern Lake. They were called "Six Schools Leaning-on Lake". They were used to teach and learn for the scion of a family. In the 19th year of the Jiaqing period of the Qing Dynasty (AD.1814), six schools were combined together and rebuilt. It was given a name of "Yiwen Family School", or "Southern Lake Academy". The academy covers an area of over 6,000 square meters. The buildings are tall and majestic, grand and wide. It's one architectural representative of ancient the academies in Huizhou style.
Tachuan Village, which is considered to have one of the best autumn scenes in China, is only 2 kilometers or 30 minutes walk from Hongcun Village. Check out our Yellow Mountain Tour with Tachuan and Hongcun.
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I updated this article on February 13, 2014
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