ZHEJIANG Province boasts dozens of villages that are somewhat off the beaten path and not overly commercial. Having introduced four such quaint attractions on August 27, Shanghai Daily tours four other villages worth visiting for various reasons.
On today’s tour, stop in a village famous for its dragon legend, another that was home to an ancient folk performance, one featuring academic and artistic ambience, and another, close to Fujian Province, with a long history of making porcelain.
The village is in Ninghai County. Longgong literally means dragon palace in Chinese, which implies the village has a dragon link.
In the west of the village there is a pond that has never dried up for centuries. The limpid water comes from a mysterious cave and sometimes waves roll with foam in the pond. Villagers believe it is caused by a secluded dragon that lives there.
About 99 percent of Longgong’s villagers are surnamed Chen and they take the dragon as a totem. The totems are seen in every corner of the village.
The village also boasts Tiantai Buddhist Temple, which is named after the mountain range. Over many years it has been an important destination for pilgrims.
Since the establishment of the village in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), Longgang has avoided wars and natural disasters. Thus villagers believe they are blessed by the hidden dragon and Buddha.
In addition, there are 18 creeks flowing into three rivers that are flanked by centuries-old trees in the village. Most of the homes have while-walls and black-tiled roofs in a style that dates back about 1,000 years.
How to get there: Shanghai-Kunming Expressway—Hangzhou Bay Sea-crossing Bridge—Shenyang-Haikou Expressway—S311 Expressway
Xiashan Village in Quzhou is listed as a protected historic cultural village. It is noted for an ancient folk performance combining stilts with a hobby horse.
In China, stilts were originally used in coastal provinces where fisherfolks used them to catch fish.
Different from a children’s toy, the hobby horse used in Xiashan folk performances are made of bamboo and truly resemble a horse.
In the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), the villagers integrated the hobby horse into stilts and created a new folk performance called gaoqiao zhuma dancing.
At the beginning, the dance was simple and comprised only a few easy moves. Later in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), villagers improved the dancing, adding more complicated steps. Tourists still come to Xiashan to see the folk performances.
In addition, the old buildings of Xiashan are worth exploring. In ancient times, Xishan was part of Huizhou in Anhui Province. Therefore, most buildings feature a Hui style of architecture characterized by up-turned eaves and carved beams.
How to get there: Shanghai-Kunming Expressway—Hangzhou-Jinhua-Quzhou Expressway—Changchun-Shenzhen Expressway—Longyou-Lishui-Wenzhou Expressway—Sanjiang Road
Heyang Village of Lishui City retains more than 1,500 houses, 15 ancestral halls, six temples and one stone bridge erected in the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Such large scale ancient constructions are rare within Zhejiang, which is why many art colleges ask students to use the village as a backdrop while they hone their painting skills.
It is also noteworthy as the hometown of Tang Dynasty official Zhu Qingyuan. Zhu and his family moved to the village from Henan Province in the late Tang Dynasty when the country split due to a rebellion.
Thereafter, Zhu settled in the village and most of the villagers with the same surname are his descendants.
Eight members of the Zhu family became jinshi, or “advanced scholar,” meaning a graduate who passed the court exam during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). A stone gate called “Eight Scholars” was erected in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to commemorate those who brought glory to the family.
The Eight Scholars Gate is known for its excellent feng shui and villagers often walk through it praying for good luck when they get married or when a funeral is held.
The village also boasts Heyang paper cut, an intangible cultural heritage. It is distinguished from other paper cut varieties by exquisite techniques and a unique style.
How to get there: Shanghai-Kunming Expressway—Hangzhou-Jinhua-Quzhou Expressway—Changchun-Shenzhen Expressway
Wanyao in Chinese literally means bowl kiln and this village in Cangnan County, neighboring Fujian Province, was formerly a center of porcelain making during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Thousands of locals were once involved in the porcelain industry. However, like other traditional crafts, the porcelain industry has declined. Only 70 people still live in the village as most of the villagers have ventured out to business or work in the mining industry.
Despite this, several villagers still know how to make blue and white porcelain and the village is considered by some as a living museum for the craft. Most of the old buildings showcase Fujian architecture. Various film crews use Wanyao to serve as a backdrop for movies and television series.
How to get there: Shanghai-Kunming Expressway—Changzhou-Taizhou Expressway—Shenyang-Haizhou Expressway