Roaming around Huangshan (no climbing pls)

I was in Huangshan last week. A prefecture-level city, Huangshan, formerly called Huizhou, is located in the southernmost portion of Anhui province. At first I thought we were in Hefei, Anhui capital, but it would still take a day to realize I was all wrong. A We arrived in Tunxi airport an hour before midnight. From Shanghai it’s an hour away but most of the flight to the city and vice versa happened always that late. We took a rest in AAAA hotel (masabi lang) and had an early presentation the next day.

By the time we finished our meeting, we still had ample time to wait, like 11hrs, for our trip back to Shanghai. Realizing this, the good client lent us their company’s van and 2 of his people to tour us to Huangshan’s bests.

Tunxi’s Lao Jie

Literally in Mandarin, Lao Jie means old or ancient street that stretched less than mile long and lies in the urban district of Tunxi. It was raining that day but it never stopped me from walking on its pavement made up of big cuts of rocks to see what this street has to offer. Walking on this street was like walking in dynasty era with commercial edifices, walls painted in white hue with gray tiled roof embroidered with wooden and stone carving. These features, as I would later discover more, define the Hui folk architecture. There were numerous shops that sell anything Chinese, porcelains, silks, antiques, tea, spices but the big hit were wood and stone carving merchandise that showcase how best the locals excel in that craftsmanship. With the help of my Chinese officemate Nancy and Robinson from translation to bargaining, I purchased for 150rmb a banner engraved was Chairman Mao famous saying "Serve the People!" which I requested for Mr. Wang, the calligrapher, to write. I was happy with the outcome and learning there’s no Starbucks city mug here I needed a great souvenir to remember this city. Lunch was served in the “number one” restaurant in the area just near the Memorial Archway of Xuguo. The meal was not Sichuanly spicy and not Shanghaily oily but still deliciously Chinese. And yes, the meal was cheaper here compare to Shanghai. I particularly like the chicken with a soup on it and reminded me of my mother tinola back home.

The Village of Chengkan

Whilst our stomachs were digesting the sumptuous meal, we passed mountains, towers, rivers and a lot of plains used for growing rice and corns along the way. The ride took us more than 30 minutes from the city center to the ancient village called Chengkan. The entrance fee to this scenic beauty pegged at 65rmb/person and comes with a local guide that spoke to us only in Chinese. The good thing about this was that the client paid for us. But the real best thing on the tour was Chengkan itself, its traditional preserved architecture, the rural life and the natural beauty that surrounds the place. Again, walking around here, slithering along its narrow pathways, seeing these canals, grasping the rough plastering on the brick wall panels and wood columns, was like time traveling. I have
been to many places in China with old traditional buildings but never experiencing trailing on a Chinese village such as Chengkan that seemed so locked in old times and physically knew no concept of modernity.

In Chengkan, I was in awe whilst sauntering its zig zag and thin lanes sandwiched in between by traditional Hui residences of 2
to 3 floors height. Again, in this village you can conclude how much the old ways had influence the modern people in building their own houses. Here you’d find wooden structure with open courtyards receiving to its interior both daylight and the rain. At the heart of the village lies the grand Boulan Hall built in the Ming Dynasty, like
1542, and mind you, the structure was grand in scale boasting the exquisite wooden and stone carvings on its ceiling and walls. I found it amazing to see people still inhabiting this rural town though most of them were old already. But still these very people whilst they doing their daily deeds like growing crops, doing haircuts or just simply listening to opera on the radio were bringing life to the village.

The Lessons on Archways and Bonsai

Tangyue village was 10 minutes away drive from Changken Village. This town welcomed us with its infamous memorial archways which comprised of seven well preserved huge stone arches built during the Ming and Qing period. Each stone archway tells a touching story and built as an imperial tribute to great contributors and ordinary people doing good deeds, and upholding justice, sheer love and bravery above all. Each archway is different from each other and possesses intricate carved details. Near these archways were ancestral temples built by opulent and powerful Bao clan and after visiting and learning their ancient halls and temples nearby gave me a conclusion how lucky the women of today compared to those in the feudal years.

We also had the chance to see the Bao gardens, just minutes away from the Tangyue archways, which houses large and private collection of bonsai in China and I felt they were better and outnumber those in Humble and Administration Garden in Suzhou. Here, you’d also find miniatures of Huangshan ranges giving us a clue of how the Hui people lives harmoniously with nature while respecting tradition. To me, these miniatures were just a preview that someday, given enough time, I would climb the steep slope of Yellow Mountain and conquered its peak.

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