Zhejiang has put a lot of effort into protecting cultural relics in rural areas, including historic villages. In these villages, old buildings are well-preserved, and villagers are encouraged to carry forward centuries-old customs. There are three villages worth visiting in Zhejiang, including one in Hangzhou. Now is a great time for a quick weekend getaway. Get out there and enjoy pastoral views and see the leisurely life of locals in the region just south of the Yangtze River.
Xinye Village (新叶村)
Xinye Village is in Hangzhou’s subordinate county Jiande (建德). Unlike other Hangzhou villages that feature modern buildings and residences, Xinye Village still boasts vintage Chinese structures erected long ago. Moreover, this wonderland has not been carved out as a sightseeing spot yet. When strolling along slab stone roads, it’s basically only locals. Poor infrastructure in the past restricted Xinye’s contact with the outside world. This in turn helped the villagers retain their ways.
The majority of people in the village are surnamed Ye (叶). Dating back 800 years, ancestors of the Ye family moved from Henan Province and settled in this valley, which is surrounded by mountains. They built an ancestral hall to worship the family’s forefathers. Inside old ink-wash paintings of ancestors hang from the beams. The hall today also serves as the office building of the village council and is still well protected. The seven-story Tuanyun Pagoda (抟云塔) is Xinye’s landmark building. It was constructed in 1567 using Feng Shui principles (a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing the human existence with the surrounding environment). The Exhibition Hall of Rice Wine shows how villagers have fermented rice wine for hundreds of years. Detailed illustrations are used to show how they did it.
How to get there: Take a long-distance bus bound for Jiande at Hangzhou West Passenger Station. Then take a taxi to Xinye Village.
Yuqitang Village (鱼圻塘村)
This is the biggest village in Pinghu City (平湖市) in northeastern Zhejiang Province. Early in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) it once prospered as a vital river port. These days 8,000 people still call Yuqitang home.
When the Song Dynasty court moved to southern China, General Liu Qi (刘锜将军) was responsible for defending the village. Under Liu’s protection, villagers survived the wars. Liu was also instrumental in dredging the river and constructing a facility to conserve water. To commemorate the general, villagers built a temple in his name. Thereafter, a large-scale ceremony was held on every Chinese Double Ninth Festival to worship Liu.
Through the centuries, numerous songs have been written to honor the general. A performance team comprising 28 villagers has revived the ancient performances in recent years. The team tours the country. A China Central Television camera crew is now filming a feature program about their song-and-dance routines.
The stage is considered the highlight of Yuqitang. It is used for Yueju Opera and other performances, which are usually free.
How to get there: Go to Hangzhou Jiubao Passenger Station and take a long-distance bus bound for Pinghu. Then take a cab to Yuqitang.
Qianchen Village (前陈村)
The village belongs to Pujiang County (浦江县) in the heart of Zhejiang Province. More than 90 percent of residents are surnamed Zheng (郑). Every household has a book named “Zheng Family Motto,” which has been handed down for more than 600 years. The book includes a guide to being parents, a section on manners and life philosophy. The Zheng family still believes it is a useful guide for raising children.
According to their genealogy book, the book was completed in 1338 by the sixth generation of the Zheng family. Filial piety was the main part of the family’s motto. Throughout history, the family has been known for its dutiful sons and daughters.
The villagers most cherished item is a tablet bestowed by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (朱元璋), who was impressed by the family’s filial piety. The tablet is inscribed with the characters “江南第一家 (The Number One Family of Jiangnan)”. The tablet has been preserved along with other ancient buildings in the village.
How to get there: Take a long-distance bus from Hangzhou South Passenger Station to Pujiang County and then take a taxi to Qianchen Village.