“Qi” means “the moraine in the river” in Chinese. As the village of Qikou sits along the Yellow River, it resembles a mound near the river that is like a moraine, which earned it the name “Qikou”. Qikou was the most important port on the Yellow River during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which was when the Jin Merchants enjoyed their most prosperous era. More than 200 hotels in Qikou, together with a number of warehouses, were almost perpetually busy during that period.
The town was built according to the physical features of Mount Wohu. Yaodong (Loess Cave Houses) are the most common type of house found in Qikou. Most of the Yaodong are built as part of a hole-courtyard or are strengthened by stones and bricks.
As the Yellow River became a less popular and necessary mode of transporting goods, Qikou was gradually abandoned. Nowadays Qikou is just a small, poor town on the banks of the Yellow River. However, many ancient buildings in Qikou are well preserved and thus visiting the village will give you an idea of what a big port looked like in the past.
There are two villages near Qikou that are definitely worth visiting:
Xiwan was a ferry village, and historically the whole village functioned as a castle-like compound for the Chen clan. The Chen’s Ancestral Hall is still in the village, and there is also a big mansion there that once belonged to Chen Sanxi’s family. The Chen’s Family Courtyard is different from the typical Shanxi Compound; it is a compound composed of Yaodong that were built in steps along the hills.
In Lijiashan more than 400 Yaodong have been built in rows along the hills, which altogether looks astoundingly beautiful and unusual. There are both traditional loess cave houses and loess cave houses that have been strengthened by stones and bricks in the village. During the Qing Dynasty, two rich families from the Li clan added a couple of luxurious mansions to the village. These mansions exhibit the intricate art of brick-sculpture, stone caving and woodcutting that was once popular in Shanxi province.
Qikou is one of the many wonderful stops on our Cultural Tour in Shanxi.