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location map of Xidi

Detail: 西递村的位置Location of Xidi village -- green arrow

The 黟县Yi County in which 西递Xidi Village is part of existed since the establishment of first Chinese empire in 221 BCE; and Xidi itself was founded in 1048 during the 北宋Northern Song Dynasty.  There are a few origins to the name Xidi: it used to be a military delivery post to the west of the government houses, hence the name 西递铺Xidi Pu (literally, west delivery post). Later the word 'post' was taken out and only Xidi remained. Ming records has a more poetic and geomantic explaination:

罗峰高其前,阳尖障其后,石狮子盘其北,天马霭其南,中有二水环绕,不之东而之西,故名西递。

A cluster of high peaks lay in the front, sharp erect barriers stand in the rear;
To the north, a basin of stone lions; to the south, a haze of flying horses.
And toward the center two circling streams, flowing not east but west.
Of old, it was called Xidi. (My translation)

From early on this area was seen as a harmonious mingling of people and environment, free of all society's constraints and Time's unnatural deterioration. It is what the great Daoist poet 陶渊明Tao Yuanming (365 - 427) called 世外桃源 — not exactly an Utopia, but a secluded valley deep in the mountains away from all worldliness, a central concept from his essay 桃花源Peach Blossom Spring. While the village still remain unworldly to those sensitive to its history and its environment, it is no longer hidden--for the world now flocks to it. Together with its sister village 宏村Hongcun it became a World Heritage Site in year 2000. Now tourists the world over come here for all its literary romance. You can enjoy its 120 or so well-preserved and unequalled Ming and Qing rural residential architecture. I spent a full day and an overnight in the village. Although the village is small, its many architectural gems necessitates a much longer stay. A week's time of wandering its quiet streets and its surrounding hills is good.

NEW -- July 21, 2010

The beautiful city of Suzhou crisscrossed with narrow water canals

Travel Info

Region: 安徽Anhui

西递图片Xidi Village Pictures

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  • Picture of 西递-刺史牌坊 xidi-Cishi Archway

    The entrance to the village. Twelve memorial arches once grace the flat area by the lake. All but one were destroyed during the cultural revolution in the 1960s.

  • Picture of 西递-刺史牌坊 xidi-Cishi Archway

    View of the grand arch from within the village.

  • Picture of 西递-刺史牌坊 xidi-Cishi Archway

    The grand arch beside the lake at sunset

  • Picture of 西递-刺史牌坊 xidi-Cishi Archway

    The Ming official 胡文光 Hu Wengang, a native of Xidi, had the stone arch created in 1578. It stands 12.3 meters high and 9.95 meters wide, the largest of its kind in Huangshan city today. It used the ratio of 三门四柱五楼 Three Doors,Four Pillars and Five Roofs.

  • Picture of 西递-刺史牌坊 xidi-Cishi Archway

    A girl combing her hair in the shade of the grand arch. The intricately sculpted stone arch has carved images of dragons,unicorns,Daoist animals and deities

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    Rooftops at dawn. The unusal white walls with cascading small roofs are called "马头墙 Horsehead Wall"--so named because the white wall and tiled roof resemble a white horse and its mane flying in the air. It is a distinctive Anhui architectural trait.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    Black and White film version of the previous scene.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    Vertcial view of the same rooftops.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    yet another view of the same rooftops, only wider.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    More rooftops at a different area. Although the horsehead walls are unusual, most of the houses have gable roofs.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    The uniform white-painted walls of the houses sets the village apart from the surrounding mountains and trees.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    The houses are not aligned along a grid plan like those of the the capitals, but along curves. When the sun is out, the light bounces around the white walls and glows in unusual areas.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    The cluster of houses in the village looks like clusters of stars in a galaxy. It has a natural order that looks delightful, and a randomness that keeps the viewer curious. I am looking at all these from the flat rooftop of the inn that I stayed for the night. Unfortunately, the building isn't part of the pack. It is a three-story rack! But I got these pictures from above it, reason enough to stay here.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    I was up on the roof before sunrise,and although it was late September, the air was cold and the wind was blowing persistently. With only a t-shirt, I ran back and forth from my Hasselblad to the surrounding low wall where I crouch to warm up for the next shot.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    The lake is small. I walked on a small foot path that leads to entrance of the village.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    This view was from the main road side of the village. I saw a small red pavillion perched on the side of a hill which persuaded me out of the village to its platform. I took this photo on the way. The shrubby path up was narrow with some parts fenced on both sides of the way. I passed several houses and sheds to get to the lonely pavillion. Once under its roof, I was disappointed with what I can see. There were too many trees and fences breaking up the view. I went back down to the village and tries to get back to the village the same way I went out: however, there were three old men sitting atop the low wall, which surroundes the roadside part of the village, forbading me from getting back in. The rule here is per ticket per single entry. They didn't want a single ticket to be used by several people. So I have to reason with them. I explained that I came out to get to the pavillion to have a bird's eye view of the grand village. And since the pavillion is part of the village, I am technically still inside. They nodded, and I quickly went back in. I have to persuade another group one more time later when I missed the bus back to town. I said I missed the last bus back to town, so now I like to stay overnight inside the village. They shook their heads. They didn't believe I am the owner of the ticket. They want proof that was inside. Well, giving them names of well-known houses did not work. But I was in luck, because previously I went in an inn where I asked if there was a rooftop I can used to take photos. Unfortunately, I forgot the name of the inn. I describe the rooftop to them. Getting to the rooftop waas unusual(I think)because I have to climb a narrow, vertical metal ladder. They question one another for a minute, and then someone nodded. I went straight to the inn and book a bed.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    This view if from the opposite side of the previous one. I hiked on the wide path up the mountain. But I could not find a clean view of the entire village.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    A view of about 3/4 of the village houses. I am looking from the mountain road, where the road edge were lined with trees.

  • Picture of 西递 xidi

    Another view from the mountain.

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image of an old man looking toward Shanghai\'s 浦东 Pudong skylineShanghai\'s 浦东 Pudong skyline

上海Shanghai: Today, the financial center of China as well as one of its cultural centers. Fashion lovers, misfits, intelectuals, dreamers, refugees, outcasts, and outlaws alike rush to Shanghai for its haven and riches. You come to Shanghai not for any historical attractions, but rather for the city itself -- its interactions of all things good and bad that generate hot gossips.

My translations of some Chinese poems.

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.

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).

image of Tiananmen gateimage of the seventeen arch bridge in Yiheyuan

Walk through Beijing's great attractions -- 故宫Gugong (The Palace Museum), 天坛Tiantan (Temple of Heaven), 天坛天安门广场Tiananmen Square, 颐和园Yiheyuan (Summer Palace).

Travel Information

See more Maps
Long-distance-bus ticket from Hangzhou to Tunxi
Getting There:

Like 宏村Hongcun, 南屏Nanping, and 关麓Guanlu, the other villages in the area that I travelled to, 西递Xidi is located in 安徽Anhui Province, 黄山市Huangshan City, 黟县Yixian County. To get to Xidi, one usually stops in 屯溪区Tunxi district, the administrative center of the city. This is the third time (2006) I was here. The first time was in 2001 when I climbed 黄山Huangshan Mountain. The next time was in 2004 when I visited 棠越Tangyue and 唐模Tangmu village in 歙县Shexian county, and 西递Xidi in 黟县Yixian county. In each time I took the long-distance bus to Tunxi from 杭州Hangzhou, the provincial capital of 浙江Zhejiang, and each ride was shorter and better - from 8hrs to 6hrs to 4hrs on better and better road.

You can get to Tunxi by plane but only through domestic flights. The airport is within the Tunxi district. By train and long-distance bus is very easy, Although you still need to get to a major city (usually a provincial capital, like Hangzhou or Wuhan) close to Huangshan city first as it is not a major city.

Xidi is in Yi county, so one usually get a ride from there to the village. Foreigners, or at least non-chinese, need to get a permit to see these places. The permit can be obtain from Tunxi's PSB. As I have never looked at one, I don't know what is involve. Inevitably, there is a fee, which I had read to be about 60 yuan. Just be sure that the permit has the places listed on the permit.

Transportation:There are buses to both 黟县 Yixian (Y9 and takes about 45mins - 60mins in 2006) and 歙县 Shexian (Y5 and takes about 30mins in 2006) counties from outside 屯溪 Tunxi's bus station. Be aware that the counties are in the opposite directions, so confirm with the driver that it is going in your destination. From Yixian, there are public buses (Y2 and takes about 30mins in 2006) to the village to the village. These buses normally waits from across a short stone bridge not far from the bus station. Besides going to 西递Xidi, the buses also go to neighboring villages such as 宏村Hongcun, 南屏Nanping and 关麓Guanlu. Signboards with the name of the villages are usually placed on the driver's front window; if not, confirm with the driver that it is going to your village. If you are in a hurry and there is no public buses there are always plenty of minivans for hire that will take you there (about Y15). Other alternatives are to hire a van in Tunxi and go straight to the village. This may cost alot more (probably about Y100), but if you have several people this may be much faster and easier.

Accomodations:

In Huangshan city (Tunxi District):Huangshan city is one of the most popular tourist city in the country, and as so all sorts of accommodations are readily available. For those who have plenty of money to spent, you wouldn't need me to point you to the hotels. For those in the lower category, there are too many places one can choose to stay. Usually one does not need to go look for them, because as soon as you step down the bus or out the station, the locals would gather around and introduce their good rooms to you. One woman convinced me and I followed to her guesthouse. The place was a few minutes walking distance from the bus station, a two-story building below a slight slope from the street. Like many similar places, it was a home that was converted to a guesthouse when tourism got big here. The ground floor belongs to her brother. It also has rooms for rent as well as a small eating place where there is a TV, so all the children gathered there in the evening. The second floor belongs to another brother, which also rent out rooms. Being the youngest, the third and least appealling(it has the best view of the all the laundry hung from the rooftop through the open ceiling) floor went to my proprietress. She has 5 rooms - two with private toilets and showers, the other 3 shared a public toilet and shower. Depending on the day and time of year, the large rooms can go from Y40 on a common day to over Y100 during the tourist season and on a national holiday. The smaller rooms go from Y20 - Y40. My proprietress and her husband (who works in another hotel) used to live on the same floor but had since moved down to the ground floor. I have never recommended a place, but since I was here twice and found the proprietress to be very friendly and the rooms very clean, I am listing it below:

吴丽珍 - 黄山市屯溪区环城北路4号
电话:05592345209
手机:13855915644,13033123000

She accepts anyone but only speaks Chinese. Her pretty and assertive daughter may know some words of English. But I think hand gestures is enough to get by the day.

In Xidi village:There are plenty of hotels outside and inside the village, as well as many family-style guesthouses. Living in local homes is much cheaper (about 25-50 yuan a night) and much more rewarding than hotels (The one I was in charged about Y25 a bed or Y75 a room, and only has public toilets and no showers), but accommodations and privacy are limited.

Food and Drinks:

Every hotel and family-style guesthouses will cook for you. In someone's home, the host will tell you all the fresh produce that is available in the market, and prepared it where you go for walk down the alley. But there are also restaurants that have their specialty and there are all sorts of snacks on the streets that will entice you. I don't remember much what I eat, and it is better for you to be surprised. The village is small, so in an hour, you will see and smell everything.

Shopping:

As in Hongcun, much of the stuffs are similar to those you see in Tunxi, but with less selection. What you will find more here is the intricate wood-carving panels. Don't expect them to be authentic (they are not from the Ming or Qing dynasties or anything 50 years ago, although the carvings maybe as good or even better), unless you really know these things. But do buy them if you really like them; they make great show pieces.

Entrance Ticket:

60 yuan (2004).

Miscellaneous:

Foreigners or non-Chinese, need to get a permit to see these places. The permit can be obtain from Tunxi's PSB. As I have never looked at one, I don't know what is involve. Inevitably, there is a fee, which I had read to be about 60 yuan. Just be sure that the places are listed on the permit.