Most of the Chinese villages are like natural ink painting scrolls, enabling people born there to see mountains, waters and to remember their homeland.
这 里 雨 水 丰 沛， 年 平 均 气 温15.8℃，降水量1686毫米。
At the end of February, it was raining heavily all my way to Yixian County. This kind of rain is rare to see in the northern Anhui at the end of winter and it means the country has entered the rainy season ahead of the time. The end of winter has been a continuous rainy period for more than one month, showing the characteristics of the humid monsoon climate in the north subtropical zone.
This is the southern Anhui near the mysterious line of 30 degrees north latitude, to the south of the ridge lies the Yixian Basin and to the north the hilly land.
There are 12 rivers in Yixian County, including Zhangshui, Yushanxi, Jiaxi, Qingxi, Xuanxi, Zhangxi and Chaxi.
“The Lancang River flows southward from Weixi County to Beidian Township of Lanping County
One more kilometer southward, it takes in on the east bank the water from the Tungdian River
Six more kilometers southward, it takes in on the west bank the water from the Deqing River
Four more kilometers southward, it takes in on the east bank the water from the Kezhuo River
Three more kilometers southward, it takes in on the east bank the water from the Zhongpai River
Three more kilometers southward, it takes in on the west bank the water from the Muguayi River...”
Like the description of the Lancang River by Lei Pingyang, the 12 rivers in Yixian County also have their own specific names and different routes. People who record those also incorporate their nostalgia into the geography of the river system.
Situated at the foot of a hill and beside a stream, Yixian’s Xidi(posts going westward) is named after the ancient post office and the three streams flowing westward by the village.
The national Tachuan (stream pagoda) Forest Park has dozens of ancient Hui-style dwellings on the mountain slope, making itself like a huge pagoda, through which a stream flows, so came the name.
Some places share the same name with rivers, like Kaochuan, Tongchuan, Meixi, and Fengxi.
Some are named according to the direction of water flow, such as Shangzhai（upper hamlet, Zhongzhai (mid hamlet) and Xiazhai(lower hamlet) of Hongxing Village, and Yuantou (fountainhead) Village and Banyuan (semi-fountainhead) Village.
This county has abundant rainfall, with the annual precipitation of 1,686 millimeters, and the average annual temperature is 15.8 degrees Celsius.
The rain has washed the rural roads clean, disclosing the paths of forefathers.
The name of the county is dear to us. As a double-millennium county, Yixian has used its name for 2,193 years.
Yixian County, the earliest administrative county of Huizhou Prefecture that had six counties under its jurisdiction, was chartered in the 26th year of the Qin Dynasty. In the second census of geographical names, 44 places have been included in the provincial and above lists of the historic-cultural heritage of geographical names.
In the county are two world heritage sites, three key sites of historical and cultural relics under the state protection, eight sites of historical and cultural relics under provincial protection. In addition, there are six national famous historical and cultural villages, 44 traditional Chinese villages, one provincial famous historical and cultural city seat and 11 provincial intangible cultural heritage items.
Here is one of the birthplaces of the ancient Huizhou Merchants and Huizhou Culture. The “poetic and picturesque Yixian in the dreamy land of Huizhou” is the best description of the county.
Because the peaks and rocks here are dark green and black, and the emperor of the Qin Dynasty was fond of black color, the county was named “You” when it was established, according to the Xin’an Annals.
In 208, the name of the county was changed from You to Yi (another synonym for black), belonging to Xindu Prefecture and later to Xin'an Prefecture.
In 770, the administration coverage of Xizhou Prefecture was reduced from eight counties to six counties. Since then, the governance system of “one prefecture composed of six counties” has remained for over 1,000 years, passing through the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.
Since 1987, it has belonged to Huangshan City up to now.
The Chinese word of Yixian embodies the distinctive landscape and cultural features of the county. All the mountains, rivers, villages and streets here also have beautiful names.
The name of the place is the index to our homes.
Since Yixian County is in the mountainous area, “Shan(mountain), Ling (ridge), and Jian (peak)” often appear in the names of places. For example, Mt. Wuxi, featuring five streams, is a provincial nature reserve. The main peak of the place is called Sanfu Jian where on top of it people can overlook the land of three prefectures. Nanping is named after the screen-like mountain to the south and Guanlu is named because it is located on the east side of the Xiwu Ridge. “There are Dongtouling in the east, Nanmuling in the south, Xiwuling in the west and Yangchangling in the north”
There are also some places named after the name of a certain family or clan. For instance, Hongcun Village, a world cultural heritage site here, was originally called
Hancun Village because the majority of the residents were from Han’s clan. After Wang’s family prospered in this village, they did not change the name into Wangcun,
instead, they chose a homophone in the local dialect to rename it Hongcun. This is really an exception, showing the inclusiveness of the people at that time.
The people here have not only retained the name of the county for thousands of years but also kept the values of the locals for thousands of years.
Some places are named after a consensus on cultural values. Lucun Village, a famous historical and cultural village in China, still maintains three ancient streets and 24 ancient lanes. The names of the lanes embody the Lu’s family culture of “sincerity, morality, charity, and righteousness”. The names of the streets and lanes, plus the connotation of historical stories and cultural values, have become part of Lucun culture.
The surname of Lu’s family was originally Jiang. In order to let the descendants remember the hardship during the war, the ancestors changed the name after Lu, a kind of reed root they used to stuff their hungry stomachs. Ever since then, 40-odd generations have lived here over 1,000 years, and Lu Chenzhong, Lu Lin and Lu Chu were brilliant representatives of the family in history.
Zhichengtang, Sichengtang, and Sijitang, buildings with wood carving decorations in Qijiali, are role models of one of the three national intangible cultural heritage items known as the three carvings in Huizhou. The Dragon Lantern Show and the Phoenix Dance are listed provincial intangible cultural heritage items.
Lucun Village is amazingly charmful in all seasons. It can even be said to be the most beautiful place in the countryside all over China. The smoke from chimneys, small bridges, brooks, winter snow, fireworks on New Year's Eve and echoes in the valleys have completed the list in my imagination of the perfect countryside.
The homeland values follow us everywhere all our life. Wherever we are, we are home when the deep-rooted memories are awakened.
"You can hear readings even from a village with only ten households", as the saying goes. In the residences of the eight brothers of Wang’s family, you may find that you are in an ancient home school museum. With the former residence of Wang Shu, a painter and calligrapher in the Qing Dynasty, as the most prominent one, all the buildings have a name in relation to books and study.
The Baoyi (to concentrate) Study in Nanping was a place designated for the schooling of poor children of the clan, free of charge. Li Zongmei, the owner of the house, was out of the village to make a living after only two years of education due to his poor family conditions. After he made a fortune in his successful career, he built three private schools in his homestead. The name of the study is from a sentence in Lao Tzu, which reads “sages concentrate on one thing for the world”.
In my dream, Huizhou is a place full of the cultural elements from Yixian accumulated for thousands of years. They are also the quintessence and charm of Chinese traditional culture.
The dialect here has been passed down for thousands of years, and the ancient food is still available today.
The local food Yuting Cake first appeared in the Records of the Peaceful World compiled in the Song Dynasty. According to the records, the cake was a delicacy of Yuting Town, a port linking the waterway and roads in Yixian.
As the town was a commodity transfer hub for goods from Hunan,Hubei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang and the farest west waterway terminal of the Xin’an River, people would bring some cakes from it for their journey. Nowadays, particularly near the Lunar New Year Eve, the Yuting cake in different shapes add a distinctive flavor to the local Spring Festival atmosphere.
Yixian County is rich in black-colored specialties, namely, black-colored tea, black fruit (torreya grandis nuts), black grains, black chicken, and black pigs. The black-colored tea refers to traditional black-colored tea and the tea produced in Mt. Shimo, black fruits are torreya grandis nuts and mulberry, and black grains include the real black rice, Shanquan brand rice, black corns, black peanuts, and black beans. It is believed the development of black grains is good for agro-tourism and regimen. The breeding scale of black chicken and black pigs has been rationally expanded under the precondition of strictly abiding by the ecological red line.
“The fertile land of Yixian gives birth to crops for thousands of years, while the black specialties nourish local people.”
Taste buds are always loyal to memory, and the taste of homeland is unforgettable even you travel thousands of miles away.