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Hongcun has a legend - that its layout follows the shape and anatomy of a cow. One line sums it all:

山为牛头树为角,桥为四蹄屋为身。

The mountain as cattle head and the trees as horns; the bridges as the four legs and the houses as the body.

The mountain is the 雷岗山Leigangshan hill; the trees are the two large trees on the village entrance; the bridges are the four old bridges of the village; and the houses are the village houses. Furthermore, the 月沼Yuezhao (Crescent Lake) is the heart; the 南湖Nanhu (South Lake) is the stomach; and the canals are the intestines. It would be interesting to have a bird's eye view of this cow (I drew a map of Hongcun), although I wonder how many people take these literally.

But this legend is a recent one. One that was spread by guides and tourists, and now the internet, during the beginning of the tourist industry here. One legend has it that in the 1930s a group of teachers from the 南湖书院(South Lake School) sat by the lakeside to cool off after a few bowls of wine, and during that heavenly spirited moment they sensed the cowness in Hongcun. The only written passage in which "cow-shape" is mention is in a book, 《雷岗山记》"Leigang Hill Records", written by one of the Wangs during the fifth year of 乾隆Qianlong emperor (1744). In the passage the author was admiring the straights and curves of the Leigangshan Hill, which he likens to a resting cow.  But there was no mention that the village itself was shaped like a cow. Furthermore, Hongcun already had 340 years of existence. Today, through countless word of mouths, different versions of cows are flying around, with cow heads and horns at different locations. Plus, more cow organs and body parts are popping up.

The old village is located on the south foot of the 黄山Huangshan (Huang Mountain) range, and about 11 kilometers northeast of 黟县Yixian County. It is 18 kilometers north from its sister village 西递Xidi (sister because they are always mention together and both share many similar characteristics). Both are designated as world heritage sites by UNESCO in 2000.  

NEW -- July 21, 2010

The beautiful city of Suzhou crisscrossed with narrow water canals

Travel Info

Region: 安徽Anhui

宏村图片Hongcun Village Pictures

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  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    The interior of 承志堂 Chengzhitang, one of the main buildings of the village.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    The interior of 承志堂 Chengzhitang, one of the main buildings of the village.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Interior of 承志堂 Chengzhitan., On these main beams are exquisite carvings, usually of important gatherings, moral illustrations, or historical legends, such as those of the 三国 Three Kingdoms.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Close-up of the previous beam with the carvings. The carvings are gold painted. The hooks are used for hanging lanterns.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    In the past the lanterns must be better-made and properly hung with a more appropiate color string or other methods.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Most old residences have an openning on the roof to allow water and sunlight into the interior. This is characteristic of Hui architecture in the area.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village
  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    A wood-walled interior.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Detail of a wood screen door with lock. Included in the screen pattern are carved forms of bats, a symbol of good luck.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Woodcarving decorations on one of the doorways in a large room.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Detail of a wood screen door. Included in the screen pattern are carved scenes taken from novels or history; also popular are carved objects of things representing wealth, luck, education, or longevity.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village
  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Swallows are common in villages. If they like your place and decided to stay by building their nests, then you are in good fortune. the nest are usually built underneath eaves or the above an entrance doorway. One I saw above a doorway; the owner installed a metal cover above the nest to shield it from rain. Here it perches on a ceiling hook.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    A family of five bats. Bats represents good fortune because the 蝠(bat) is pronounced the same as 福(fortune). There may be other reasons.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Among the objects are Qilins (unicorns). Qilins are mythological animals of the first order. Their appearances foresee significant events or persons to come. A qilin was said to appear at the birth of Confucius.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village
  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village
  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    There is a second level but closed for tourists. I was told that it has wood planks for the floor.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village
  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    The ceiling are painted with scenes, similar to carved ones on wood.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village
  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village
  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    A 门罩 menzhao below an open rooftop. Menzhao are sort of a cover, symbolically to protect what is below.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    The stone base of the pillars and wood walls.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Interor of 南湖书院 Nanhu school.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Interor of 南湖书院 Nanhu school.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Interor of 南湖书院 Nanhu school. I am not sure the figure in the painting is 孔夫子 Kong Fuzi (Confucious) or the Song Neo-Confucianist philosopher 朱熹 Zhu Xi.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Interor of 南湖书院 Nanhu school. I am not sure the figure in the painting is 孔夫子 Kong Fuzi (Confucious) or the Song Neo-Confucianist philosopher 朱熹 Zhu Xi.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    Room interior.

  • Picture of 宏村 Hongcun Village

    local children.

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image of people on a boat in the Three Gorges area of the Changjiang river area

See the 三峡Three Gorges of the 长江Changjiang (Yangzi River) between 重庆市Chongqing city and 宜昌Yichang.

上海 shanghai skyline苏州园林 suzhou gardernUygur lady and tourist boat in 天池 Tianchi

Selected pictures from my 3-month travel through China during the summer of 2006.

clay figure of 钟馗 Zhong Kui

Arts and Crafts that I bought along my travels.

trucks on the desert road

Pictures I took while on a bus traveling through the sandy deserts of 甘肃Gansu on my way to 嘉峪关Jiayuguan.

image of Pingyao streetimage of the main gate tower to the Chang family's compound and gardern

The compounds and manors of the extreme wealthy in 山西Shanxi's small towns and villages. See the old town of 平遥Pingyao with well-preserved Ming and Qing city wall and street layout.

image of Tulufan's Emin MinaretPortriat of a Uygur girl in 二堡乡 Erbaoxiang

See 吐鲁番Tulufan's well-known attractions -- 苏公塔Sugonta (Emin Minaret), 高昌城Gaochang Ruins, and 火焰山Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains).