Introducing the Cuandixia Village
Cuandixia is located in the deep northwestern valleys of Zhaitang Town, Mentougou district of Beijing, roughly 110 km northwest from central Beijing. The village is 6 kilometers away from the National Road 109 and can be reached via bus number 892 which departs from the west of Pingguoyuan subway station. It takes about three hours and a half from central Beijing to get to Cuandixia by public transportation and two hours and a half by private car.
Origin of Name
Chinese ancient book Shuo Wen Jie Zi (Notes on Origin of Chinese Characters) records that ‘Cuan’ means fire under the cooking range; firewood; light a fire to cook. The character 爨 (Cuan) has 30 stokes, one of the most complicated Chinese characters being used now. People who really know the character could write it in the right form. But those who are unfamiliar with it could write a mess. In order to make the process simpler and easy to remember, villagers wrote a rhyming doggerel: with a traditional Chinese character 興 (Xing, means luck) as the head, character 林 (Lin, means forest) as the waist, fire burning (火 means fire) under the character 大 (Da, means big). There are several explanations of the origin of the name Cuandixia.
It is said that there is a Cuanbaoyu Channel in the northwest of the village where Laozi (founder and patriarch of Taoism) performs his alchemy and collects treasures. Because the village is below the channel in position, so the village was named as Cuandixia Village. Dixia (底下) means underneath in Chinese.
The village took its name because the village is under a military post named “Cuanliankou” in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
There is a kitchen-oven-like cliff in the north of the village that is called “Cuan Head”. The name Cuandixia was given because the village is under the cliff.
Villagers in Cuandixia are all descendants of Han Shining, a Ming military official. The family served the army for generations. When there was a war, the family would serve in the war. If there wasn’t, they would farm the land for a living. As time went by, the family expanded and later developed into a village, which was preserved to the present day. The village has a history of over 500 years but most of the courtyards were built in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Cuandixia used to be a prosperous stage of commerce on the old post road in west Beijing during the last hundreds of years. It was invaded by Japanese in 1942 during the Sino-Japanese war, and 228 houses were burned. Remains could still be seen now as a witness of history. Fengsha County railway and National Road 109 were built after Liberation (1949). The opening of the railway and highway has greatly improved the transport capacity but also deprived the village’s importance in trading. It turned from a vital place for merchants to an agriculture production-oriented village. The village is also a museum of Maoist graffiti and slogans, especially up the incline among the better-preserved houses. During the last decades, a large number of young people have left the village to find jobs and finally settled in the city. Heydays have gone, but the village has kept its original state and natural country environment since no new houses were built due to economic recession.