Huizhou in Anhui — Huizhou Culture Reflected in Architecture Resembling Ink Paintings
Huizhou, once an ancient city with six counties, played a significant role in developing one of the most important regional cultures in China—the Huizhou Culture.
Today, it stands as a town in Huangshan City, Anhui Province, boasting exceptional ancient building complexes and historic relics surrounded by beautiful natural views.
Serving as a grand museum, it remains a representative of Huizhou Culture.
Huizhou Ancient City in Anhui Province of China, Photo from Official Site.
Ancient Villages in Huizhou Area, Photo by Zhao Gaoxiang.
Brief Introduction to Huizhou Culture
Huizhou Culture, or Hui Culture, is one of the most influential regional cultures in China, which includes all cultural aspects that were developed in this area throughout history.
Therefore, it consists of Huizhou merchants, Hui Cuisine, architecture, villages, carving art, Xin'an academy and philosophy (Xin'an Rationalism or Xin'an Neo Confucianism), education, and medicine, painting school, handicrafts, customs, dialects, and so on.
A Dwelling of Chengkan Ancient Villages, Photo by Feng Lihui.
Huizhou: A Commercial Center in Ming and Qing
Huizhou, used to name Shezhou or Xin'an, had been inhabited by people thousands of years ago until 221 BC and was set as a county in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC).
After the unified and prosperous Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD) ended, the nation entered a period of separation and wars when more people moved to this beautiful area surrounded and relatively isolated by mountains.
A Village Surrounded by Grand Mountains, Photo from Official Site.
People living there worked diligently and constructed many brilliant dams and irrigation systems.
However, it was still not a good place for agriculture, especially since cultivatable lands became increasingly insufficient with the growth of people.
In 1121, after a big rebellion from this area was suppressed, the current emperor Zhao Ji changed their name to Hui, which means string, rope, and bind, wishing people there would not rebel again.
Huizhou people later turned to the surrounding mountains, where they found more resources and made them into exquisite handicrafts, and many of them now are National Intangible Cultural Heritages.
National Intangible Cultural Heritage the Huizhou Inkstick, Photo by Liu Junxi.
They then transported and sold those products out of this area and accumulated more and more reputation and assets.
According to official historians of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644), over 70% of their population were doing business outside the city and formed the Huizhou Merchants group (Hui Shang), who were intelligent, diligent, and very united.
They were willing to help others from their hometown, and they would construct schools and encourage their kids to participate in the Imperial Examination to get involved in politics.
Soon, they built one of the most successful business empires that monopolized many industries and obtained close relationships with many officials.
Part of "Qianlong Emperor's Southern Inspection Tour" (Qianlong Nan Xun Tu), Painted by Xu Yang in 1751 and Now Preserved in the National Museum of China.
Qianlong Emperor had Toured in South for Six Times, All Were Subsidize by A Wealthy Huizhou Merchants Led by Jiang Chun.
However, during Daoguang Emperor's reign (1821 — 1850), the government implemented some reformative policies that caused Huizhou Merchant group huge loss, followed by the dumping of western products and large-scale wars, which declined quickly.
Today, their history, culture, pride, and characteristics remain in the area's ancient building complex, museums, and handicrafts.
Building Complex in Ancient Huizhou Area
Characteristics of Huizhou's Dwellings
Perfect Fengshui Culture
Most villages and towns of the Huizhou area strictly followed the Fengshui Culture, with mountains surrounding as backers and waters streaming in specific paths and directions.
According to specific situations, every village was designed in different shapes, including a ship, a moon, a cow, a lotus, a turtle, a snake, etc.
Meanwhile, the positions of ancestral halls, tombs, religious temples, and schools were accurately calculated by Fengshui masters.
Chengkan Villiage that Has Perfect Feng Shui, Photo from Official Site.
Multilayer Buildings with Narrow Courtyards or Tianjing
Because of the area's limited farmland and rainy weather, they built multilayer dwellings to avoid humidity and save the land.
To improve lighting and aeration, they constructed many courtyards as well.
Exquisite Wooden Carvings and Courtyard, or Tianjing
Tall Fireproof Wall or Horse Head Wall
Considering this region's high density of wooden dwellings, people built many tall walls around their houses to protect the family from strong wind or fire spread from other places.
The white coating absorbs moisture, and the horse head shape decoration is to pray for fortune, wish their people safe, and make progress like strong horses galloping on roads.
Tall Fireproof Walls or Horse Head Walls, Photo by Jing Jilai.
Exquisite Carving Arts
In ancient Chinese culture, people couldn't live in houses that exceeded their social status.
Besides the limited farmland in this area, successful business merchants paid more money to decorate their dwellings.
Therefore, exquisite carvings on wood, brick, and stone became increasingly sophisticated, which now are National Intangible Cultural Heritages in China.
Exquisite Carvings On Ancient Building Complex
Hierarchies and Hui Culture in the Architecture of Huizhou
United Collectivism and Ancestral Worship
Based on ancestor worship in Chinese culture, and the united spirit of Huizhou Merchants, they spent lots of money on constructing grand ancestral halls in their hometowns.
Ancestral Halls, or Zongci in this area, usually are the grandest and most sophisticated buildings in every village, where locals worship ancestors, hold big meetings or events, etc.
Exquisite Main Building (Baolun Ge) of the Ancestral Hall of Ancient Chengkan Villiage, Photo by Kehang.
Extreme Attention to Education
In ancient Chinese culture, merchants held a low social status.
Besides royals, political officials and scholars selected from Imperial Examinations were the most respected and privileged, followed by farmers and artisans.
Therefore, as long as the local merchants earned money, they would build academies and do everything to send their kids to study and participate in the Imperial Examination.
Nanhu Academy, or Nanhu Shuyuan, of Ancient Hongcun Villiage, Photo by Tang Yingyan.
Ultimate Pursuit and Paramount Adoration to Political Achievements
Because of the social rank system in ancient China and the Huizhou people's considerable investment in education, there were over 260 private academies in this area in recent centuries, most of which were constructed by successful local merchants.
Hence, many Huizhou scholars achieved excellent scores in Imperial Examinations and political positions, and other well-educated obtained good accomplishments in medicine, art, literature, and so on.
Faithful to Neo-Confucianism Virtues
Huizhou is the hometown of Zhu Xi (1130 — 1200), the great philosopher whose Neo-Confucianism theory was the most influential dominant doctrine for the next 700 years.
As the originating place of Neo Confucianism (or Li Xue), its important branch, Xin'an Rationalism, had been developed and followed quite well here.
Therefore, many archways (or Paifang) were constructed throughout history to praise essential virtues respected by Neo-Confucianism, including filial piety, chastity, loyalty, righteousness, and so on.
Historic Archways or Paifang in Tangyue, Photo by Qingxi.
Impressive Attractions of Huizhou in Anhui
Ancient Dwellings and Streets
Ancient Roads Built by Local Merchants, for them to Carry Products Out of the Mountains.
Yuliang Dam or Yuliangba, Constructed in 1229, Important Water Conservancy Project, Photo by Wu Yuchuan.
Tachuan Villiage, One of the Beautiful Ancient Villages in the Huizhou Area.
Nearby Mount Qiyun, Photo by Kehang.
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