Huizhou in Anhui — Huizhou Culture in Ink Paintings

Huizhou Ancient City in Anhui Province of China, Photo from Official Site of Huizhou.

What is Huizhou?


Huizhou used to be an ancient city that included six counties, where developed one of the most important regional cultures in China, the Huizhou Culture.


Today, Huizhou is a town in the Huangshan City of the Anhui Province, with exceptional ancient building complex and historic relics surrounded by beautiful natural views, as a grand museum and representative of the Huizhou Culture.


Ancient Villages in Huizhou Area, Photo by Zhao Gaoxiang.

What is Huizhou Culture?


Huizhou Culture or Hui Culture is one of the most influential regional cultures in China, which included all cultural aspects that were developed from this area throughout history. 

Therefore, the Huizhou Culture 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 in Huizhou Area, Photo by Feng Lihui.

Why and how Huizhou became a commercial center in Ming and Qing dynasties?


Huizhou, used name as Shezhou or Xin'an, had been inhabited by people thousands of years ago until 221 BC was set as a county in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC). 


After the unified, prosperous Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD) was ended, the nation stepped into a period of separation and wars, when more people moved to this beautiful area that was surrounded and relatively isolated by mountains. 


A Village in Huizhou Surrounded by Grand Mountains, Photo from Official Site of Huizhou.

People living there worked diligently and constructed many brilliant dams and irrigation systems, but it was still not a good place for agriculture, especially since cultivatable lands became more and more insufficient with the growth of people. 


In the year 1121, after a big rebellion from this area was suppressed, the current emperor Zhao Ji changed their name to Huizhou, 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, 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 Huizhou, and accumulated more and more reputation and assets. 


According to official historians of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644), over 70% of Huizhou people were doing business outside the city, who formed the Huizhou Merchants group (Hui Shang). 


The Huizhou Merchants were smart, diligent, and very united as well.


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 period (1821 — 1850), the government implemented some reformative policies that caused Huizhou Merchant group huge loss, then followed by dumping of western products and large scale wars, Huizhou Merchants declined quickly. 


Today, their history, culture, proudness, and characteristics are still lying in the ancient building complex, museums, and handicrafts of the Huizhou area. 

Building Complex in Ancient Huizhou Area


What are the 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 certain 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, 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 of Huizhou.

Multilayer Buildings with Narrow Courtyard or Tianjing 


Because of limited farmland and rainy weather in the Huizhou area, they built multilayer dwellings to avoid humidity and to save the land. 

To improve lighting and aeration, they constructed many courtyards as well. 

Exquisite Wooden Carvings and Courtyard, or Tianjing, of Ancient Huizhou Buildings.

Tall Fireproof Wall or Horse Head Wall

Considering the high density, wooden dwellings of ancient Huizhou, people there built many tall walls around their houses, to protect the family from strong wind, or fire spread from other places. 

The white coating is to absorb moisture, and the horse head shape decoration is to pray for fortune, wishing their people safe, and make progress like strong horses galloping on roads.

Tall Fireproof Wall or Horse Head Wall of Ancient Huizhou Buildings, Photo by Jing Jilai.

Exquisite Carving Arts 

In ancient Chinese culture, people couldn't live in houses that exceed their social status.


Plus the limited farmland in this area, successful business merchants of Huizhou paid more money on decorating their dwellings. 

Therefore, exquisite carvings on wood, brick, and stone became more and more sophisticated, which now are National Intangible Cultural Heritages in China.

Exquisite Carvings On Ancient Huizhou Buildings

How the strict hierarchies and Huizhou Culture presented?


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 the Huizhou 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 of Huizhou, Photo by Kehang. 

Extreme Attention on Education 

In ancient Chinese culture, merchants held a low social status.


Besides royals, political officials and scholars that selected from Imperial Examinations were the most respected and privileged ones, followed by farmers and artisans. 


Therefore, as long as Huizhou merchants earned money, they would build academies and do everything to send their kids to study and to participate in the Imperial Examination.

Nanhu Academy, or Nanhu Shuyuan, of Ancient Hongcun Villiage in Huizhou, Photo by Tang Yingyan. 

Ultimate Pursuit and Paramount Adoration to Political Achievements 

Because of the social rank system in ancient China and Huizhou people's big investment in education, there were over 260 private academies in this area in recent centuries, most of which were constructed by successful Huizhou merchants. 

Hence, many Huizhou scholars achieved excellent scores in Imperial Examinations and political positions, other well-educated ones obtained good accomplishments in medicine, art, literature, and so on. 

Xu Guo Archway, or Xu Guo Shifang, Constructed in 1584 Under the Command of Wanli Emperor, to Praise Exceptional Achievements of the Grand Secretariat Xu Guo.

Faithful to Neo Confucianism Virtues

Huizhou is the hometown of Zhu Xi (1130 — 1200), the great philosopher whose Neo Confucianism theory had been the most influential dominant doctrine for the next 700 years. 

As the originating place of Neo Confucianism (or Li Xue), its important branch, the Xin'an Rationalism, had been developed and followed quite well in Huizhou. 

Therefore, many archways (or Paifang) were constructed throughout history, to praise important virtues that were respected by Neo Confucianism, including filial piety, chastity, loyalty, righteousness, and so on.

Historic Archways or Paifang in Tangyue of Huizhou, Photo by Qingxi.

What are other impressive attractions of Huizhou?


Ancient Dwellings and Streets in Huizhou Ancient City.

Ancient Roads Built by Huizhou 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 Villiages in Huizhou Area.

Mount Qiyun in Huizhou Area, Photo by Kehang.

Huangshan Mountain, A UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage.

What are the famous specialties of Huizhou?


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