As a part of Huizhou, Jixi also has a long history of making ink. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the “Appraisal of Antiques House” and the “Hu Kaiwen Ink House” were very successful in the ink business. Buildings in Jixi are also famous for the three styles of Hui carving – brick carving, woodcarving and stone carving.

Hui Cuisine is one of the eight types of Chinese cuisine Hui cuisine originated from Jixi. In the beginning, Hui Cuisine was a kind of indigenous cuisine with strong regional characteristics. It was not until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty, when the Hui merchants were economically thriving, that Hui Cuisine began to incorporate the advantages of other types of cuisine and developed into a more wholesome style via the process of exchanging qualities with other local cuisines.

Jixi has both fragile old buildings and beautiful landscapes. The Cooling Peak area is one of the national reserves, with an abundance of fauna and flora. In Shangzhuang Village, you can find the former residence of Hu Shi (a famous scholar from the early 20th century), which was built in 1897. The Hu’s Ancestral Hall, located in Yingzhou Town, was built for Hu Fu and Hu Zongxian, high-ranking officials from the Ming Dynasty. In 2007, Jixi was awarded status as a national historic and cultural city.


Xidi Village was built during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). At that time, people lived together based on clanship and consanguinity. Xidi was occupied by the Hu clan. There are more than 300 buildings in Xidi, which were mainly built during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, among which there are 124 residential houses and three Ancestral Halls1 that have been preserved in their original state. The layout of Xidi is well designed. It looks like a sailing boat. Most of the houses are composed of three rooms and a square yard. The presence of elaborate brick-sculpture, woodcut and stone carvings on these ancient residences make them typical examples of the Hui style of architecture.

Walking into any of these houses, you will find art everywhere. Stone carvings of flowers, birds and beasts are usually on the doorframe. Brick carvings and woodcuts decorate the windows.

As a famous village in Huizhou, Xidi was once occupied by many rich Hui merchants. They wanted to build luxury houses to show off their wealth. But the strict hierarchy of society had restrictions on construction which specifically affected people of a lower social class. So the merchants were only able to choose the best materials and utilize the most sophisticated workmanship when building their place of residence. The memorial archway—built in 1578 by Hu Wenguang, who was a high-ranking official during the Ming Dynasty—is a good representation of the Hui-style of stone carving. The best example of Hui brick sculpture is in the house of another Ming official, which is in a place called the West Garden.

Xidi is considered to be at its most beautiful in the spring. The fields outside the village are covered in yellow canola flowers and there are hundreds of peach trees in the village, which all blossom together in April.

Ancestral Hall: It is a kind of temple where families can worship their ancestors.



With the lofty Mount Huang and the Xin’an River running through it, the unmatched beauty of Shexian made it a fitting capital for the ancient state of Huizhou, a region marked by its picturesque scenery. The county of Shexian was founded during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) and it is widely considered to be the birthplace of Hui culture. Over 100 structures in Shexian date back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and thousands date back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), making it a veritable treasure trove of traditional Hui-style architecture. The most acclaimed are typically referred to by experts as the Three Wonders of Ancient Huizhou Architecture: the residential houses, the ancestral temples, and the stone archways. When it comes to these elaborate constructions, three truly is the magic number!

The Hui-style residential houses are characterised not by their size, but by their white-washed walls, black tile roofs, elegant woodcut panels, and intricately carved stone reliefs. They may not be as large as the average mansion, but the Hui merchants more than made up for it by hiring the finest artisans to decorate both their exterior and interior. After all, as the old saying goes, you should always choose quality over quantity! The ancestral temples are similar to these houses in their grandeur, but they originally served an entirely different purpose.

Each ancestral temple belonged to a specific clan or family and represented a holy place where they could pray to their ancestors. It was believed that the living could communicate spiritually with their deceased ancestors in these temples, and would frequently make sacrificial offerings to them. The deeply personal nature of these temples meant they were also used for family meetings, weddings, funerals, and any other significant ceremony related to the family. Nowadays these temples provide an invaluable insight into the history and development of specific families in the Huizhou area. They are delicate works of art, imbued with all of the love and respect that the clan members once had for their venerated ancestors.

Located in the centre of Bei’an Village, the Wu Family Ancestral Temple is regarded as one of the county’s finest and most emblematic ancestral temples. This temple was originally founded by Wu Shidu in 1826, during the Qing Dynasty, and supposedly cost approximately 12,000 kilograms of silver to build. To put that into perspective, that’s roughly the weight of 24 grand pianos! From sophisticated tile engravings to ornate stone carvings, the temple is bedecked with all the finery money could buy. It is renowned for two wood carvings in particular: one of West Lake in Hangzhou; and the other of one hundred deer, all in different poses, grazing in the woods. The cost of all those deer must have been quite dear indeed!

Memorial Archways


While the residential houses and ancestral temples of Shexian are undeniably magnificent, many people consider the stone archways to be the county’s crowning jewel. There are over 250 of these archways scattered throughout the county, the most famous of which are the Xuguo Stone Arch and the Tangyue Memorial Archways. In ancient times, the building of a special archway or “paifang” had to be formally approved by the Emperor himself! This was because these archways signified that the individual or group being honoured had made great contributions to or were viewed as positive role models by the imperial court.

They could be built from tile, wood, or stone, and were typically placed at the entrance to a village, street, or tomb. The number of pillars and the patterns engraved on the archways were also imbued with a deep significance and usually denoted the status of the person or group being honoured. For example, patterns incorporating the dragon or the phoenix signified that the person was either a member of or close to the royal family, since these mythical creatures were the symbols of the Emperor and the Empress respectively.

According to local legend, the Xuguo Stone Arch was the great exception to this rule! Xuguo was a renowned scholar during the Ming Dynasty who originated from Shexian and served as a teacher to three princes. When he discovered he was to be graced with an archway of his own, he took advantage of the Emperor’s vague instructions and constructed an archway of eight pillars, in spite of the fact that such an honour was reserved only for royal family members. Talk about pushing your luck!

If that seemed excessive, the Tangyue Memorial Archways consist of not one, but seven separate arches! They were designed to praise the local Bao family for their virtues, in particular their loyalty, filial piety, benevolence, and charity. Among these seven, there are three archways dedicated to filial affection, two venerating chaste wives, one devoted to charity, and one to honor an honest and upright official. These archways are prime examples of Hui culture, which prized familial love and respect above anything else. So if you thought your family had high expectations of you, imagine what it must have been like to be born a Bao! (Read more about the Huizhou Culture)

Nowadays, traveling through the county of Shexian is the ideal way to engage with ancient Hui culture. Along Doushan Street in the old city of Shexian, there are a plethora of time-honoured shops dealing in ancient wares, such as locally grown Huangshan Maofeng tea and Xin’an paintings. The Hui-style ink sticks and famed She ink slabs that are sold in Shexian are widely considered to be the best in the Huizhou region. Some stores even sell Chengxintang paper, which was considered to be the finest quality paper during the Qing Dynasty. So if you’re in need of some school supplies, Shexian is the place to be!



Make your dream trip to Shexian come true on our travel: Explore Traditional Culture in Picturesque Ancient Villages

Culture of Huizhou

huizhou hongcun

In the south of Anhui province in China there is a beautiful place located along the Xin’an River and around Mount Huangshan which boasts well-preserved villages, a rich culture and a long history. In Ancient China this place was referred to as Huizhou. However, as Huizhou is no longer officially an administrative division now, not many people know the regions precise range.

Generally speaking, there are seven counties that were considered part of Huizhou prefecture: Tunxi (Huangshan City), Shexian, Xiuning, Qimen, Yixian, Jixi and Wuyuan (in Jiangxi Province). Shenxian was the capital of Huizhou.

Huizhou has a documented history that is nearly 2,000 years long. Hui culture, which originates from Huizhou, integrates Confucianism, clan culture, and mercantilism. The best expression of these Hui values is in Hui architecture, which is still visible in every existing Hui village. Due to the fact that the Hui culture grew and thrived predominantly during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, most of the old villages and towns still exist and nearly all of the residential houses are still in use.

  1. Xin’an Li theory (Confucian Moral School)

Xin’an Li theory, the study of inheriting and explaining Confucian theory, was at the core of Huizhou culture.

Confucian theory has always been the main essential principle in China. Chinese people follow it as their standard of conduct. Although many of the Confucian schools were damaged or destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the influence of Confucian principles still exists everywhere in modern Chinese culture.

As the Huizhou region was a particularly rich area during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the Huizhou people could afford to focus more on education. There was a famous scholar named Zhuxi (1130-1200), whose ancestral home was in the Huizhou region, and his studies were founded in Xin’an Li theory. During the Ming Dynasty, there were 52 colleges and 462 old-style private schools in Huizhou. A large number of Huizhou people, all of them male, received official government positions by passing imperial examinations and thus the foothold that Huizhou gained in the imperial court through these government officials increased its power as a region.

The Xin’an Li theory derives its name from two sources: Xin’an was the name of the river which ran through the Huizhou area, and Li in Chinese roughly translates to mean ‘principle’. More precisely the term Li refers to the principles taken from Confucian theory, for example the concept of filial piety. Xin’an Li theory argued that human beings should follow the heavenly principles and eradicate human desires.

Thanks to the Xin’an Li theory, Huizhou was an area famous for loyally honoring two traditional Chinese virtues: filial piety and feminine chastity.

Filial Piety:

tangyueIn China, because of the influence of Confucianism, filial piety has always been regarded as an absolute necessity for any human being. In traditional Chinese opinion, the family is far more important than the individual. So in Confucian theory people must always consider the whole family first, especially the parents, rather than indulging their own feelings or needs.

Traveling in Huizhou presents you with the opportunity to listen to many stories that focus on and praise filial piety. When traveling in Huizhou you can also visit some large memorial archways with architecture that is themed after the concept of filial piety.

 Feminine Chastity:

In ancient times, chastity was considered the most important virtue for a woman to uphold and we believe that there are still many people who hold this opinion in modern China today. The appearance of Xin’an Li theory in the Huizhou region meant that women in this area suffered more under the rules of chastity.

Most of the men in the Huizhou region travelled out of the village to do business, and thus left their wives at home to serve their parents and raise the children. They might only come back once a year, or sometimes even less frequently. It was without question that, no matter what, the wife must remain chaste whilst the husband was away. Once her honor was threatened, she had to die rather than be violated to express her loyalty to remaining chaste. If a woman’s husband died young, the only way for her to properly remain a morally upright and chaste woman was to become a widow for the rest of her life.

You will find many archways that use and praise the theme of feminine chastity in their architecture, and many stories use this theme as well. For example, there are 94 memorial archways in Shexian, among which 34 of them honour the concept of feminine chastity.

     2. The Clannish concept

When you visit the Huizhou region, you will find the most important buildings there are the Ancestral Halls. There are usually several Ancestral Halls in one village, each one connected to a different family. Some villages just have one Ancestral Hall, and thus almost all of the people in the village will have the same family name.

ancestor hallThe Ancestral Hall is a kind of memorial temple for a clan to worship their ancestors. In Huizhou, many big families were made up of immigrants. They had different reasons to leave their hometowns and to finally settle down in the Huizhou region, the most common reason being the war. There were also a group of immigrants who were originally officials allocated to the Huizhou region but who didn’t leave after their tenure expired.

So why did they choose Huizhou as their final destination? And why did they prefer to stay there rather than go back to their hometown? We don’t think they had decided on Huizhou as their final destination when they first immigrated. But on their journey, after seeing so many different places, the Huizhou region undoubtedly seemed the most appealing and thus won prize place as their new and final home. If you look at a map of China, you can see that the most famous mountain in China, Mt. Huangshan, is located in the middle of the Huizhou region. In this region, mountain stands beside mountain and river crosses river. Thus it is considered a good place to settle down according to Chinese Feng Shui theory (an old philosophical and somewhat superstitious system that aims to create a better life by managing the surrounding environment), and what’s more, there were plenty of fields and a fruitful climate for farming.

According to the records kept of big families in Huizhou in the late Ming Dynasty, the most populous clans were Wang, Cheng, Wu, Hu, Bao, Li, Fang, Xu, Jiang and so on. Each family started with one ancestor and expanded over centuries to create hundreds or perhaps even thousands of new families.

huizhou villageThere are two main principles denoted in the clannish concept in Huizhou:

  • All of the people in the clan should take care of each other. Since the clan was basically one big family, all of the members of the clan were relatives. If someone in the clan got into trouble, the whole family should help them.
  • The clan was responsible for handling all of the important affairs and resolving all of the disputes among its members. Usually each clan had an elder (an older man) as their leader, who would make the final decisions for the whole clan. If members had disputes, no matter what they were about, they could ask the leader to give the final judgment.

     3. Mercantilism

There is no doubt that the success of the Huizhou merchants provided the foundation for the booming growth of Hui culture. The Huizhou merchants have more than 600 years of history behind them. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the imperial capital moved to Lin’an (now Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province), which was not far from Huizhou and easy to transport merchandise to both by road and by river. According to some historical records, Hui merchants were engaged in trade practically everywhere by the beginning of the Southern Song Dynasty. They traded in tea, ink, paper and all manner of goods. In ancient Huizhou, it is said that, on average, a boy in his twelfth or thirteenth year had already begun doing business as an apprentice of his relatives in the same clan. Huizhou merchants usually focused on small scale trades, but tried to make the best quality products. The Huizhou Chronicle describes Huizhou merchants as “properly dressed, well-spoken, fully aware of price, knowing when is the good time to buy and sell, and getting extra profits from selling local goods at other places.” ( These records were taken during Jiajings reign (1796 – 1821) in the Qing Dynasty.)

Huizhou boasts the perfect climate for producing several famous teas, including Huangshan Maofeng and Qimen Black Tea. So tea has always been one of the most important goods exported for sale from Huizhou. .

However, Huizhou people apparently were not only capable of trading in natural produce, but also manufactured good quality products by using superior technology in order to occupy and dominate the Chinese market. The writing brush, ink stick, paper and ink stone, referred to as“the four treasures of the study”, were star products in the Huizhou region. Even now, they still produce the best ink and paper you can find in China.

The booming period of economic growth caused by the Hui merchants took place during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, and that is the reason why most Hui villages are composed of houses built in these two dynasties. In ancient China, no matter how rich you were, businessman as an occupation was still not considered as good a title as official or scholar. To enhance the social standing of their family, some Hui merchants used their wealth to purchase official positions, and almost all Hui merchants chose to provide their predecessors with a good education. Their wish was to hopefully promote more of their family members into positions as officials and scholars, and this practice produced many Hui officials and scholars during the Qing Dynasty.

     4. Hui Architecture

When talking about Hui culture, it is inevitable that one should make mention of the fantastic Hui architecture. Not to mention that the Hui architecture is the most extant and well preserved type of Hui art that we can see nowadays.

In ancient times, the standard of residence permitted was officially stratified according to the house owners’ social position. Any houses constructed beyond these restrictions were considered an offense and the owners would be punished accordingly. Thus, according to these laws, merchants could not build large or luxurious houses for their families. However, the cunning Hui merchants found another way to show their wealth.

Brick-sculpture, woodcut and stone carvings are considered the three essential artistic components of Hui architecture. In a wealthy family’s mansion, you can find beautifully carved decorations everywhere – on beams, windows, pillars, doors and even walls. You will find vivid animals, people, flowers; you may even find that some of the carvings depict stories.

The richer the family was, the more elaborate and delicate the carvings were that decorated their mansion. The price of a piece of very good brick-caving product by a skilled craftsman might be equal to the price of an acre of field.

A typical Hui residence was a compound comprised of four two-story buildings on four sides of an inner courtyard or patio. The roofs of all of the buildings were on an incline towards the inner courtyard in order to drain any water towards the patio. Hui people believed in water as a symbol of or metaphor for wealth. So they wanted all of the rainwater to flow into their inner yard, in order to symbolize and hopefully foreshadow wealth coming into the family.

The traditional Hui dwelling is a closed compound, with solid and high walls to guard against theft. There are only small windows on the walls for aeration. The outer walls are called ‘horse-head walls’ and they are painted white with black roofs. These high walls function to prevent the spread of fire.

Discover more about the Culture of Huizhou on our travel: Explore the Ancient Chinese Villages in the Huizhou Region


Anhui Province, called Wan for short, is located in the southeast of China. With the Yangtze River and the Huaihe River running eastwards, Anhui has a mild climate and plenty of rainfall, which is conducive to the growth and prosperity of various species of plants, which flourish in this beautiful land, and is also favourable to forest growth.

Anhui is widely recognised as one of the provinces endowed with the most precious natural tourist attractions. There are famous mountains, beautiful rivers, and other scenic spots. These natural beauties blend seamlessly with Anhui provinces’ long and brilliant history.  Thus, Anhui not only has charming natural scenery but also possesses an equally rich and fascinating culture. The most distinctive of these local cultures is the Hui Culture, which is visibly prevalent in the historic buildings and heritage sites of Anhui, as well as the intricate and stunning local folklore. Anhui has brought forth numerous celebrities who have occupied important positions in Chinese history , including Lao Zi (philosopher), Zhuang Zi (philosopher), Cao Cao (military expert or a king), Hua Tuo (doctor), Zhu Yuanzhang (the first emperor of the Ming dynasty), Li Hongzhang (the most important official in the Qing Dynasty), and Hu Shi (scholar of philosophy and literature) to name but a few.

anhui locationThis long history has left behind a great number of cultural relics and historic sites. There are five state-level historic and cultural towns in Anhui – Bozhou, Shouxian, Shexian, Anqing and Jixi. Many historic sites are listed as national treasures, such as the Tangyue Archway (in Shexian), Xuguo’s Stone Archway (in Shexian), the Fengyang Royal Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty (in Fengyang), the ancient villages with ancient houses (such as Hongcun) and so on.

Hui cuisine and tea are famous and definitely worthwhile trying. Anhui has had a good reputation for producing the Four Treasures of the Study in the past. The Hui ink stick is still the best Chinese ink in production to this day.

Anhui was also an opera-producing province. The Nuo Opera is known as “the living fossil of the Chinese opera”. The Beijing Opera, which is the most popular opera in China, was actually developed from the Hui Opera. Huangmei Opera is one of the five main styles of opera in China.

Visit some of Huizhou villages in the tour: Explore the Ancient Chinese Villages in the Huizhou Region,  including Tunxi, Chengkan, Shexian, Nanping, Xidi, Hongcun and Lucun.