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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Tranquil Water Town In Anhui-Chengkan

A Tranquil Water Town In Anhui-ChengkanThe village of Chengkan was first set up sometime around the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty and boasts a history of more than 1800 years. Located 26 kilometers north of Tunxi and 40 kilometers from Huangshan Mountain, this tranquil water town is chiefly known for its labyrinthine layout based on the theory of eight trigrams used in Taoist cosmology and its sumptuously decorated examples of Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture.

The village is surrounded by mountains, and is irrigated by the Longxi River which runs through it from north to south. A picturesque lake greet visitors at the entrance of Chengkan, and a number of man-made tributaries of Longxi are diverted into the village itself serve individual residences. This complex series of canals has led some locals to dub Chengkan the Venice of South Anhui, a claim reinforced by the 99 criss-crossing lanes which add to the maze-like feel of the village. Today 3,000 residents live in Chengkan in 700 houses, 26 of which date back to the Ming period and 125 from the Qing dynasty.

As with many of the surrounding villages in southern Anhui, the fate of Chengkan is tied to the fortunes of one dominant clan. The Luo family began to assert themselves first locally and then on a national scale during the Tang Dynasty due to their diligent approach to all things educational and bureaucratic. At one point during the early years of the Ming Dynasty one hundred members of the Luo family were imperially appointed regional Governors all over China. One of the most famous members of the clan was Luo Ruji. A member of the eighth generation of the Luo family, he passed the highest imperial exams and took some of the top positions available in the imperial court, at one point tutoring the emperor himself. Luo Ruji had six children, town of whom, Luo Song and Luo Yuan became renowned scholars attached to the name of eminent Neo-Confucian poet Zhu Xi who visited Changkan and praised it in a poem: Chengkan is the village of two virtuous persons, Luo Song and Luo Yuan, and is also the best village in southern China.

This wealth and power led to a construction boom in the village, and stylish pavilions, covered bridges, fresh water wells, ancestral temples and private residences sprung up all around Chengkan. Typical of dwellings from Ming Dynasty (learn more about ancient Chinese dynasty via China guide), living areas on the ground floor were often smaller for tax reasons, the windows were gridded to let the air flow in but protect from thieves and the ornate exterior doors were designed to be fire resistant.

The village was also characterized by the use of different water flowers carved on stone, wood or brick for symbolic purposes. For example, the lily flower represents integrity and accomplishment, and the lotus is a symbol of purity for Buddhists because the striking flower has its roots in mud, and some of these carvings are still visible around Chengkan to this day. So you should not miss Chengkan during your summer China vacation deals.

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