Xidi and Hongcun are two traditional ancient villages that still hold the appearance of villages that had disappeared or changed in the last century. The style of their streets, the ancient buildings and decorations, as well as the residences with a complete water system all are unique cultural heritage.
Chinese Name: Wan Nan Gu Cun Luo – Xi Di and Hong Cun
English Name: Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui – Xidi and Hongcun
Based on the selection criteria C(III)(IV)(V) for selecting cultural heritage, the ancient villages of Xidi and Hongcun were listed in the World Heritage List in December 1999.
Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui- Xidi and Hongcun
The Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui refer to the mountain regions south of the Yangtze River in Anhui Province and to traditional villages with a common regional cultural background and strong cultural features of Huizhou. The mountain regions in southern Anhui have a long history and deep cultural deposits, maintaining a large number of traditional buildings and villages that are similar and distinctive. The Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui were cleverly integrated with the surrounding topography, landforms and landscapes. In addition, as the businessmen in the Ming and Qing dynasties had strongly supported the economic development of their hometowns, the cultural education in those areas was increasingly prosperous. After returning to their hometowns, these businessmen constructed their houses with a mentality of elegance, purity, uniqueness and free from vulgarity, giving the ancient villages a richer cultural environment and prominent village landscapes.
The largest difference between the ancient villages and other villages is that the construction and development of these ancient villages in southern Anhui are independent of agriculture to a large extent. The villagers in these villages have largely surpassed common peasants and citizens in terms of their awareness, lifestyle and taste. They maintained and strived to keep in touch with the literati and officials. Therefore, these ancient villages have a deep cultural atmosphere. Based on the common housing construction, villagers in these ancient villages used different decorative techniques to build small gardens, dig pools, constructed perforated windows, arranged bonsai, carved on beams and hung horizontal inscribed boards, creating an elegant living environment which all reflected the local villagers' high quality and artistic accomplishments. The location selection and housing construction in the ancient villages followed the geomantic theory on the Book of Changes which has more than 2,000 years of history and emphasizes the theory that man is an integral part of nature and respect for the natural environment, focusing on both material and spiritual needs, and has a scientific basis and high aesthetic standards.
The Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui: the Huizhou-style architectural features were developed along with the thriving of Huizhou businessmen in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and are most demonstrated by exquisite design and excellent techniques in a limited construction space which really is a unique architectural form. Later, the Huizhou businessmen gradually declined but the Huizhou-style architecture was preserved in the ancient villages. Therefore, these ancient villages have important historical and architectural value.
Xidi and Hongcun, which are among the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui, are located in the Huangshan Scenic Area in Yixian County, Anhui Province, eastern China. The two villages are the most representative among the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui and have the typical regional culture of southern Anhui. They also are the carrier of Huizhou culture, the typical culture in late period of China's feudal society and embody exquisite Huizhou-style building features. These villages are well- preserved and have beautiful sceneries. The villagers respect Confucianism, emphasize education and have a prosperous style of writing, reflecting the cultural phenomenon in Huizhou in its period of great prosperity in Ming and Qing dynasties, including the feudal moral principles in the idealist philosophy, the religious culture of clansmen living together, the geomantic culture of village construction, as well as the Huizhou commercial culture of valuing both commerce and Confucianism. Therefore, they have deep historical and cultural deposits.
Xidi village is eight kilometers away from Yixian County and was built in the Northern Song Dynasty between 1049 A.D. and 1054 A.D. Most villagers in the village have the surname "Hu" and there are more than 1,000 people from 300 households living in the village. The entire village is boat-shaped and surrounded by mountains with two rivers flowing through the village respectively from the north and east before converging at the Huiyuan Bridge in the south of the village. With north-south streets and two roads along the rivers as the main skeleton, the village has a street system that uses the eastern part as the main residence and then spreading towards the north and south. All of the streets and roads were paved with bluestones from Yixian County and most buildings are made of wood and decorated by brick walls, wood carvings, stone carvings and brick carvings. The streets and buildings have a harmonious design and layout, the spatial variation of the village is flexible and varied, and the color of the buildings is simple and elegant.
Xidi Village now has 124 well-preserved ancient buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties and three ancestral halls, including the Lingyun Pavilion, Cishi Pailou, Ruiyu Courtyard, Taoli Garden, East Garden, West Garden, Dafu Residence, Jing'ai Hall, Qingyun Pavilion and Yingfu Hall, all of which can be called models of the Huizhou-style of architecture in the Ming and Qing dynasties and were hailed as "the residence museum of Ming and Qing dynasties in China." All of the houses in Xidi Village look splendid and elegant including the delicate gardens, doorframes and perforated windows made of black marble, stone-carved flowers, birds and animals, brick-carved towers and pavilions, as well as refined wood carvings, gorgeous colored drawings and murals, all of which demonstrate the essence of ancient Chinese art. It can be called a rare ancient architectural complex in China with a "perfect layout, artful structure, beautiful decoration, refined construction and deep cultural connotation" and is a "pearl" in Huizhou-style residences.
Hongcun Village is 10 kilometers away from northeastern Yixian County and was established in the first year of Shaoxing during the Southern Song Dynasty (1131 A.D.). It covers an area of about 19 hectares and was the region where people with family name of “Wang” lived. 137 historic buildings constructed during Ming and Qing dynasties (from 1368 A.D. to 1911 A.D.) are well preserved. The historic buildings were constructed with white walls and grey tiles and were orderly arranged. The Chengzhi Hall is the largest and most delicate representative of the ancient buildings, and is considered as the “exhibition hall of Huizhou wood carving crafts.”
The various wood carvings of the Chengzhi Hall with many structural levels are complex and lively, and are still magnificent after more than 100 years. Hongcun Village is called the “cattle-shaped village” because it looks like a black cattle lying beside the mountains and streams if people look down from above. The lofty and verdant Lei Mound is the cattle’s head, the towering old trees are the cattle’s horns, and the houses arranged in picturesque disorder from east to west look like the cattle’s huge body. The Yinqing Spring is the “cattle’s rolls,” flowing across the half-moon shaped pond which is the “cattle’s stomach,” before flowing into the South Lake outside the village which is considered as the “cattle’s tripe,” and the four wood bridges on the western stream of the village are considered as the “cattle’s feet.” Such an ingenious design of the village’s water system provided convenience for villagers to use production water, living water and fire demand water, and also adjusted the temperature and environment of the village. The cattle shaped village and the manmade water system planned and constructed by the ancient villagers of Hongcun Village is “one of the great wonders in the history of architecture.”
According to the second point of the first item in the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, a single or connected architectural complex that has prominent universal value in terms of architectural style, distribution and connection with the environment is considered to have world heritage. Xidi and Hongcun, as remarkable pieces of the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui, belong in the category of architectural complexes that with a high historical and artistic value. Furthermore, they are unique in their style, distribution, and connection with the environment, thus they fit the definition of cultural heritage perfectly. The architectural features of the Huizhou-style residential houses in the period of the Ming and Qing dynasties, represented by the ancient villages of Xidi and Hongcun, are unique in terms of design, material, craft, surrounding and mental experience of the times.
These features are still integrated in the ancient villages in Xidi and Hongcun today and are extremely well-preserved, and they have not changed from the architectural styles to internal features with the development of the times. Therefore, the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui – Xidi and Hongcun are in line with the requirements of cultural heritage in terms of authenticity. In addition, the ancient villages of Xidi and Hongcun, as models of the architectural features of the Huizhou-style residential houses in the period of the Ming and Qing dynasties, have not only maintained its completion and coordination with its surroundings, but is also reflects the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui while keeping the completeness of Anhui culture.
Therefore, the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui - Xidi and Hongcun are in line with the requirements of cultural heritage in terms of completeness. Overall, the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui - Xidi and Hongcun are in line with the evaluation standards of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the requirements of world heritage in terms of authenticity and completeness. The Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui, which is a world heritage, has a high level of cultural heritage value, and should be strictly protected and managed according to the relevant requirements of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.