Cuandixia Village

Beijing Cuandixia Village
Beijing Cuandixia Village
Situated in Zhaitang Town, Mentougou District, Cuandixia Village (or Chuandixia Village) is about 56 miles (90 km) west of downtown Beijing. Traditional dwelling complexes, colorful historical relics, and unique folk customs characterize this ancient village, surrounded by mountainous landscape.
 

History

The village has a history of over 500 hundred years, which can be dated back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). It used to be prosperous, but today, only 76 courtyards have survived natural erosion and gunpowder. In total, 29 families still inhabit the village. Although bereft of past glamour, the primitiveness and simplicity of the village has attracted more and more visitors in recent years.
 

Name Origins

There are many legends about the village's name. The most convincing one is that the village was located below an important military pass, Cuanli'an Pass, hence the name Cuandixia, meaning village below Cuanli'an Pass. Another legend has it that Cuan (爨) in ancient Chinese means stove; the villagers named their dwelling as 'a place under stove' to help them stay away from coldness. All villagers' surnames are Han (韩), a Chinese character homophonic with the character 寒, which means coldness; their ancestors gave them the name to defend against the cold days.
 

Village Layout

The village was built following the terrain of Longtou Mountain slopes, and is 'sycee' shaped from a bird's eye view. From the top point of the mountain range, the courtyards were arranged in a radial direction down to the foot. Flat ground was very limited, all the houses are crammed in anywhere, and everywhere possible. People took full advantage of every strip of mountain land to build their dwellings so that more land would be given for farming. Those times were ones of post-war famine.

Why the village was built there is related to Chinese Feng Shui. According to the rules, an auspicious site should lean against a stable mountain, face a lower mountain with rolling hills on two sides. The location of the village meets these conditions, with Longtou Mountain to rely on, lower Jinchan Mountain in front, and other small hills surrounding. All these were believed to be auspicious factors, which enabled the village to survive natural disasters like floods.
Guide Map of Cuandixia Village
Guide Map of Cuandixia Village

Courtyard

Most of the houses in the village are quadrangle courtyards, which usually consists of main hall to the north side, wing rooms at west and east sides, as well as guest houses to the south; typical of Beijing courtyards. They have unique features, but due to space limitation, are smaller than those in downtown Beijing. They are delicate as well, built on mountain slopes, and limited by the local terrain. They may not be exactly square and are more flexible in shape; the houses were built with local materials like wood and stone. In addition, most the houses' outside corner, fence wall, stylobate, and gate pier are in cambered shape, which improves flood control. They also reduce the flood's damage to the house. In the whole village, there are several well-preserved courtyards worth visiting, such as Guangliang Courtyard, Caizhu Courtyard, Temple of General Wudao, Temple of Guanyu, Goddess Temple and Mill House.
Cuandixia Village
A Bird-eye View of the Village
Layout of Cuandixia
Courtyards in the Village

Decoration

Inside the courtyards, visitors can find many delicate brick, stone, and wood carvings, especially on the roof, eaves, gate pier, wall, and windows. Most carving patterns are flowers, birds, or animals, which indicate the local people's desire for a tranquil life. The decorations vary a lot from one courtyard to another, and visitors can tell the owner's economic status by the finery and intricacy of decorations. In Cuandixia Village, Guangliang Courtyard is the most renowned.
 

Folk Customs

Cuandixia Village is an interesting place to experience during Chinese New Year. It retains all the original customs, such as eating dumplings, setting off fireworks, and striking the New Year bell. There, visitors can bathe in a denser festival atmosphere than in modern cities. When the Lantern Festival comes, villagers will offer sacrifices to gods, and send colorful lanterns as boats or balloons for good luck. The Qingming Festival is a very special day for local people, when the most popular activities are honoring the memory of ancestors, and have a ride on swing. In leisure time, villagers will hold story-telling and ballad-singing activities; most of them quoting from classical literature, local Chinese Opera, or historical novels. Their traditional culture and art are inherently associated with daily life in a beguiling and interesting way.
 

Nearby Scenic Spots

About 0.7 miles (1,127m) walking distance to the village, there is a natural beauty spot named Yixiantian, which means a thread of sky, which can be viewed through two closely-located mountains. Baiyu Village, an old village with several hundred years' history, is about 3 miles (5km) to the west of Cuandixia Village.

How to get to Cuandixia Village

Take Subway Line 1 to Pingguoyuan Station. Then take bus 892 and get off at Zhaitang Station. Next, take a taxi or carpool with others to reach the entrance. The taxi fare is around CNY 20 - 30.

From Cuandixia Village, there are buses returning to Zhaitang Station, leaving at 06:50, 09:40 and 15:35. Upon arrival at Zhaitang, take bus 892 back to Pingguoyuan Subway Station.
 

Tips:

Opening Hours: 24 hours open
Ticket Price: CNY 35 (including Cuandixia Village, Baiyu Village, Yixiantian, Shuangshitou, and Huanglingxi)

Accommodation:
Many local houses provide rooms for visitors at a low price, but the quality is just so-so. If you require accommodation with better facilities, Yiqingchen Courtyard Inn is considered the best local option, providing 12 branch courtyards scattered within the village.

Shopping:
Before leaving, one can buy souvenirs or local specialty. Here are some popular ones.
Souvenirs: Mini tile, lanterns, paper cut, tile carving, wood carving.
Local Specialties: walnut, almond, camellia tea, honey, dried fruits.

 Other Attractions in Mentougou, Beijing:
  Mount Miaofeng
  Tanzhe Temple
  Jietai Temple
  Lingshan Mountain
  Western Hills Forest Park

 Recommended Itinerary:
Beijing 1-Day Tour: Cuandixia Village
More Beijing Tours