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Top 10 ancient cities [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2012-4-12 15:21:48 |Display all floors
By Xu Lin; source from:

China is a vast country with innumerable tourist destinations. If you are getting tired of going to the hot spots like Sanya, Lijiang and Pingyao, and want to get away from constant stream of tourists, the following 10 destinations are good choices for you. These ancient towns are sure to please your senses with the rich culture of ancient China.

10. Bing'an Ancient Town, Guizhou (贵州丙安古镇)

Bing'an Ancient Town, Guizhou

Located next to the Chishui River, Bing'an used to be an important gateway between Sichuan and Guizhou during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Excluding the newly constructed suspension bridge, the town was only accessible by boat. This heritage of inconvenient transportation has preserved the town's traditional culture and structures.

It was difficult to locate an area of flat land to build residents' houses because the town was founded in a mountainous region. However, locals quickly adapted existing technologies, such as stilted houses with wooden frames, to satisfy basic military and economic needs. If viewed from across the river on the highway, a large number of three-to-five storey houses supported by hundreds of logs can be seen. There are four stone gates on each side of the town, making Bing'an more a solid castle than a town.

The new suspension bridge spans the Chishui River. Standing in the middle part of the bridge, you may get a panoramic view of Bing'an town and the lofty mountains around. It is the best location to take photos.

Along the bluestone slabs covered with moss, the old buildings shaded by woods take you back in time to ancient China. Recording the history of the town, the old houses, walls and eaves look like faded pictures.

9. Pianyan Ancient Town, Chongqing (重庆偏岩古镇)

Pianyan Ancient Town, Chongqing

Located in Chongqing, southwest China, Pianyan Ancient Town was a business center in ancient China, with a history of more than 300 years. The town sits between two extensions of Huaying Mountain, with the winding crystal Heishuitan River flowing by.

Time passed, but the streets, architecture, culture and customs of the town have remained and are well-preserved. Simple but elegant, the buildings along the streets have never been renovated, and maintain their original look.

In addition to the bridges, rivers, old streets and historic houses, which are similar to other ancient Chinese towns, the most unique attractions in Pianyan Town are the Yuanyang Bridge, Couple Trees and Female Smith Forge.

Yuanyang Bridge was built at the intersection of the mainstream and a branch of Heishuitan River in 1809, during the Qing Dynasty. Two Ficus trees stand on either end of the bridge. As time passed, the two trees grew toward each other, and their branches and roots have been twining together, like an embracing couple. This was the reason why people called them the Couple Trees.

There was a smith forge in the town. Different from other smith forges, a woman worked as a blacksmith in this forge, which created a beautiful scene in the town.

The Wu Temple, Book House, Opera Tower, Stilted Houses by the river and the ancient street paved with blue stone slabs are also worth a visit.

8. Qianyang Ancient Town, Hunan (湖南古城黔阳)

Qianyang Ancient Town, Hunan

Many people know of Fenghuang, but there are still a number of other old towns in Hunan province. Qianyang is one of them. Surrounded by water on three sides, Qianyang was once a famous business town on the southern Silk Road, which was an important transportation channel before the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) linking China to south and west Asia.

With a history spanning 2,200 years, Qianyang Ancient Town was established in 202 BC, 1,400 years earlier than Dayan Ancient Town of Yunnan and some 900 years earlier than Fenghuang Ancient Town.

The town is a successful model planned and established based on its terrain following Feng Shui, a Chinese system of geomancy believed to use the laws of both Heaven and Earth to help one improve life. There are many alleys in the town, and each of them is connected in a T-shape, which looks like a perplexing maze. The design is a combination of traditional architecture with Chinese philosophy. Today, the town's original layout, alleys and the ancient architecture complexes of Ming and Qing dynasties are still well preserved, which is an exception in modern China.

Various temples, ancestral halls, opera halls, guild halls, academies, shops, hotels, residential houses and villas can be found in the town. The tall firewalls, the bended eave corners, the wood-frame windows decorated with carved patterns and the plain counters record the town's long history. Most buildings are of one or two stories, built using either wood or brick.

For thousands of years, local residents have created a unique folk culture, including local operas, music, dances and artwork such as woodcarving handicrafts and bamboo baskets. The Mulian Opera, an integration of folk stories, sideshows and acrobatics, was recognized as the “living fossil” of Chinese opera art by the UNESCO.

7. Heshun Village, Yunnan (云南侨乡和顺)

Heshun Village, Yunnan

Four kilometers away from Tengchong county, Yunnan province, across a paddy field and a stone bridge, is Heshun village, an ancient and beautiful south China village.

Tengchong used to be an important stop on the ancient“southern land silk road” which was a trade route linking Burma, India and China's Sichuan and Yunnan. Heshun sits beside the road. During that time, a large volume of cigarettes, alcohol, silk and tea from Yunnan were exported, and cotton, jade ware and jewels were imported from Burma. Many people from Heshun went to Burma and the neighboring countries for business.

Today, this traditional village has preserved much of its rich heritage, and the architecture and folk customs that existed before the Ming and Qing dynasties still flourish in Heshun. It is amazing that there is such a splendid Chinese village in the border area. The classical ancestral halls, temples, memorial archways, pavilions, stone fences and folk houses with white walls and black tiles record the flourishing history and traditional culture of the village. The poplar and willow trees by the river and the beautiful lotus flowers in the ponds make the garden scene of the countryside even more charming. The beautiful scenery has attracted many painters, photographers and film directors.

The village is also the birthplace of many well-known scholars. The old traditional building by the entrance to the village is a village-level library with the longest history and richest collection of books in China.

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Post time 2012-4-12 15:22:04 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Cicci at 2012-4-12 15:23

6. Sideng Street, Yunnan(云南茶马古道寺登街)

Sideng Street, Yunnan

Located in Shaxi town of Yunnan Province, Sideng Street is the only bazaar along the tea and horse route that survived the wars and chaos throughout the centuries.

From the neolithic age to Ming and Qing dynasties, the tough geography and environment around the town made it an important communication center on the route. People had to pass the town before heading north to Tibet and south to the Central Plains. As time went by, Shaxi became a distribution center where businessmen from Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia exchanged goods. Fur and feathers and Tibetan herbs were transported on horseback from Tibet to the town and exchanged for much-needed goods like salt and tea.

Sideng Street was one of the busy bazaars in Shaxi Town and the only well-preserved trading center along the historic route. It was included in the 2002 World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites on October 11, 2001 by the World Monuments Fund.

In today's Sideng Street complex, the Bai ethnic-style buildings, with the structure of shops in the front and yard in the back, are standing alongside the stone-slab roads. In the east of the complex, there is an intact ancient theater built during the Qing Dynasty, a stage and a pavilion with three layers of eaves. In the west of the complex, there is a Buddhist Temple from the Bai ethnic group called Xingjiao Temple. Built in 1415 during the Ming Dynasty, the temple has more than 20 murals painted by Zhang Bao, a famous Bai painter. It is a miracle that the architecture of the temple is still in good condition after 600 years.

There used to be three gates of Sideng Street complex, but now only the east gate remains. The imprints of horses' hoofs can still be seen there.

5. Baoshan Stone City, Yunnan (云南宝山石头城)

Baoshan Stone City, Yunnan

In addition to Dayan Ancient City, there is another old city in Yunnan Province, Baoshan Stone City, located by Jinsha River Canyon, about 120 kilometers north of Lijiang. Because it was built on a huge mushroom-shaped rock, the city is called “stone city.”

Baoshan Stone City is the original habitat of the Naxi Ethnic Group. Naxi people migrated here during the Northern and Southern dynasties (420AD-589AD) and built the city during 1277-1294 in Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Their own language, houses and architecture have been well preserved in the city, reflecting the true life of the Naxi people.

One side of the city is a stone slope going straight to the Jinsha River, and its other sides are steep cliffs. With only two stone gates in the north and south for access, the whole city forms a natural strategic pass. Houses were built according to the terrain of the rock, and all the cultivable hillsides around the city have been turned into terraced fields.

Now over 100 Naxi families are still living in the city. They are very friendly to tourists and always greet the visitors with genuine smiles.

4. Zhaojiabao, Fujian (福建赵家堡)

Zhaojiabao, Fujian

Zhaojiabao was built in 1600 during the Ming Dynasty by descendants of the Zhao imperial family of the Song Dynasty (960AD-1279AD), a copy of the structure of Bianjing City, the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty.

Surrounded by two city walls, Zhaojiabao has four gates facing four different directions. The city is divided into three sections: living section, etiquette section and garden section, with temples, pavilions, ponds, bridges and other public buildings inside.

There are five mansion houses at the center of the city, with 150 rooms in total. The three-story Wanbi House is the main architecture of Zhaojiabao, covering an area of over 400 square meters. It is now the Museum of Song History, exhibiting the portraits of 18 emperors from the Song Dynasty and related materials from the period.

With the nickname of “an imperial city without emperor,” Zhaojiabao maintains its original look. Zhao family's descendants, 600 people from 100 families, are still living in Zhaojiabao, which is a miracle in the history of humankind.

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Post time 2012-4-12 15:24:16 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Cicci at 2012-4-12 15:25

3. Yanshan County, Jiangxi (江西铅山)

Yanshan County, Jiangxi

Yanshan County, located in northeast Jiangxi Province, was built in 953 AD, in the Southern Tang (937 AD-975 AD), one of the Ten Kingdoms following the Tang Dynasty (618 AD-907 AD).

Hekou Town of Yanshan County used to be an important distribution center of the nearby eight provinces when water transportation was frequently used. It was also one of the four famous towns in Jiangxi during ancient times along with Jingde Town, Zhangshu Town and Wucheng Town. The ancient street paved with bluestone and granite slabs, the Ming-and-Qing-style architecture, and the stone bridges across the rivers mirror the beautiful scenery of the ancient water town.

Ehu Academy, 15 kilometers southeast of Hekou Town, was an academy where the Southern Song philosopher Zhu Xi (1130 AD-1200 AD) did his scholarly research. As famous as Bailudong Academy in Lushan Mountain, Ehu Academy is one of the most well-preserved academies in China, with its original look of 800 years ago.

Dayi Bridge and Dengbo Bridge are two famous bridges in Yanshan County built during the Tang Dynasty. The former, nearly 200 meters long, was originally a wooden and stone structure, but later was reconstructed with bluestones. The latter is a 50-meter-long wooden bridge with nine shops on the bridge.

Yanshan County is also famous for its production of Lianshi paper, a kind of high-quality paper used to print books, draw paintings and write calligraphic works. With a history of over 600 years, it is even more precious than rice paper.

Other local products of Yanshan County include willow products, bamboo weaving and silk fans.

2. Zhaji Ancient Town, Anhui (安徽査济古镇)

Zhaji Ancient Town, Anhui

Located 60 kilometers west of Jingxian County in southern Anhui Province, the Zhaji Ancient Town was built during the Sui and Tang dynasties (581 AD-907 AD), with a long history of over 1,380 years.

Being a town with the largest number of existing ancient civil houses in China, Zhaji has more than 300 Hui-style ancient structures of Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, covering a total area of 26,414 square kilometers.

Walking along the time-honored lane, visitors can appreciate the quaint yet lively architecture of Anhui Province: glazed-tile-roofed cottages, solemn ancestral halls, exquisite arch bridges, and well-preserved temples that promote local culture.

Zhaji Town receives more than 15,000 visitors every year, including painters, photographers and other artists, to record the fascinating scenery of this ancient town.

1. Dayu Ancient Town, Guangxi (广西大圩古镇)

Dayu Ancient Town, Guangxi

Situated at the east bank of the Li River, 23 km (14.3 miles) southeast of Guilin City, Dayu Ancient Town was originally formed in 200 AD during the Northern Song Dynasty, with a history of 1,800 years. It was the leader of four renowned ancient towns in Guangxi Province as early as 600 years ago.

The two-kilometer-long ancient street is paved with bluestone slabs, with well-preserved old buildings standing alongside. Most buildings feature the styles of the architecture of Ming and Qing dynasties, including black bricks and black tiles. Every building was well designed for both commercial and residential use, composed of the gate, courtyard, principal room, wing rooms and backyard.

Some ancient workshops, such as shops of bamboo products and straw sandals, clinics and barber shops can also be found in the town. The local food, customs and traditional culture will leave visitors with lasting impressions.

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