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Sketching Ancient Villages in Anhui, China

October 28, 2010

Xidi and Hong Cun Villages in Anhui

Xidi and Hong Cun Villages in Anhui Province in Southern China are both ancient villages from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (15th to 17th century) that have been remarkably well preserved.  A result of the flourishing trading economy of the time, the lavish mansions in the area were financed by money sent home by merchants who would work far away on the coast. A stone window shaped like a falling leaf in Xidi Village describes the thinking of the time: like a leaf eventually falls to the ground to lay by the tree’s roots, every family member who leaves returns home. Since the male members of the family were often away on business, they built their homes with tiny windows on the outer walls (to protect against bandits, who were always seeking plunder) and beautiful courtyards open to the sky on the interior, to let light and rain water in. The grey tile roofs and stone details characterize Anhui architecture, not to mention the ornate wood carvings on beams and staircases. One of the best preserved homes in Hong Cun village cost millions of dollars in today’s dollars and included gold on all the beams of the living areas. On my recent trip I discovered that not only are the villages themselves beautiful, but driving between them you pass through lush tea fields and bamboo groves, a beautiful bright green against the contrasting white of the village homes.

The villages were made UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2000. Even before then, they were known around China for their picturesque rooftops and reflecting ponds and were very popular with artists. A recent exhibit in Shanghai of artists’ Moleskin notebooks reveals just how well suited they are for an afternoon of sketching. The exhibit, “Detour” will be on display until Nov. 20 at Bund 18. 4/F, 18 Zhongshan East Rd., Shanghai.


Li Shoubai’s sketches on the inside of a Moleskine notebook.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Camilla permalink
    December 9, 2010 1:09 am

    dottie, I thought that was the one you drew for a second! hehehe… was going to be very impressed 🙂

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