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Huangshan Mountain Tour 
-- Tour to Ancient Residential Houses
   

      Should you become tired of the yellow tiles and red walls of the Beijing buildings or have seen too many colorful dragon and phoenix totems on the ridges of houses by way of contrast in Fujian Province, the Huizhou Local Residential Houses, which appear as constructions of gray tiles and white walls when seen from afar, are a good alternative to explore.

     Huizhou Local Resident Houses were built originally by the merchants from Anhui Province. In the China's past, many merchants were engaged in business across the country and in time returned home as wealthy men. In order to show their fortune and dignity, they built large residences. The two main branches of such merchants came from Shanxi and Anhui Provinces. Qiao's Compound is testimony to the achievements of a Shanxi Merchant while those of the Anhui Merchants are typified by the Huizhou Local Resident Houses.

     With their wide distribution and unique designs, the Huizhou Local Resident Houses are considered to be the finest of ancient Chinese residences. Most of the houses date from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and amount to thousands widely dispersed throughout the Anhui countryside. Unlike the tradition for houses to face south, the houses here face north in accordance with the popular saying that 'Merchants' gates should not face south and tax collectors' gates not face north'. They are surrounded by green mountains and blue rivers and each one is connected by a board to the other. The interiors are a world of natural beauty, where rockeries, pools and flowers abound.

     The layout of the houses is very complicated and confusing like a labyrinth. The halls are constructed one after the other, each with a patio to collect the sunshine and to allow a refreshing breeze to pass through. The eaves have a two tier design, the lower being wider providing shelter like an umbrella. The cornice is toward to the inside, so that the rain can flow to a drain in the patio, and it is said that 'water from every direction merges into the hall' in accordance with the concept that 'Wealth should not flow outside'. The compound is surrounded by a high outer white wall, which can prevent the spread of fire.

     Upon entering the houses, you'll find refined sculptures that are quite contrary to their outer simple and plain appearance. The Huizhou houses contain what are referred to as the 'Three excellences of Huizhou', namely sculptures in wood, brick and stone. Almost all these houses have peculiar sculptures on their windows, gate and other furnishings. The carvings on the outer gates are extremely flamboyant, so as to show the wealth and status of the family.

     Huizhou Local Resident Houses are not only the residences of the people, but they also include the ancestral temples inside the houses. To protect their interest and status, the rich merchants would congregate and form a strict system of regulations and ideas. The ancestral temples were used as the places to punish transgressors and congeal the minds of the whole family.

     Among the Huizhou Local Resident Houses, Xidi and Hongcun villages, which are both located in Yixian County and have been listed in the World Heritage Directory, along with Shexian County are the most representative.

     Usually tourists to Huangshan will stop by Ancient Residential Houses for a side tour.  

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