Cuandixia VillageA ~ Z

Introducing the Cuandixia Village

Cuandixia Ancient Village was built during the reign of Ming Emperor Yongle (1403-1424). In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the locality of the village is the most important post road linking east and west Zhaitang district in the western part of Beijing. It is also the military road linking Beijing and remote areas, as well as main artery leads to the areas like Hebei Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The village is about 650 meters above sea level with a temperate monsoon climate, which makes it cool in summer and cold in winter. The whole village is about 5.33 square kilometers in size with clear springs, good sunshine, natural vegetation and earth fit for farming. With 74 well-preserved courtyards, 689 houses and 29 families, it is a popular tourist attraction in Mentougou district of Beijing now, especially in summer.

Location

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.

Version 1:

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.

Version 2:

The village took its name because the village is under a military post named “Cuanliankou” in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Version 3:

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.

History

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.

Featured Spots

Guangliang Courtyard (Landlord’s House)

Guangliang Courtyard is the highest in rank among all houses in Cuandixia. The gate tower of the courtyard is made up of a seven-stair step and a Ruyi Door, much more delicate than ordinary gate towers. The square bricks in the middle of side wall and the cornice are carved with exquisite design, which metaphorically means “wealth and status”. Door shade is decorated with beautiful wood carvings. Under the door shade, there are two flagstones, one is a blue stone, which metaphorically means “everything goes smoothly”; another one is a purple stone, which means “good luck and happiness comes from the east”. All the details reflect how considerate the landlord was trying to show his noble social status. Three separated yards interconnected by narrow lanes and form a complex courtyard. The pattern of the courtyard embodies a spirit of unity against intrusion from outside world and also a life style of independent living.

Mill, Jingtai (water well)

Mills and Jingtai are public facilities indispensable to every family in the village. They are the common property of family members and the symbol of cohesion among the families. They are not only places that satisfy villagers’ daily life needs, but also contribute to the villagers’ casual communication activities. In-door mill is a place where villagers grind grains, while out-door mill is a symbol like exhibits in shops rather than its primitive function. Old people and kids like to sit around the mill, chatting and playing. Out-door mill is also an important place where passers stopping by and talk to each other. The mill affords a fine view of scenery and what happened around. The mill offers a possibility for all villagers to meet each other since every family is more or less associated with mills. For women who had less chance to contact with the outer world and participate in other communication activities, Jingtai was a place to have fun. They met here, pumping water, washing clothes, chatting and exchanging information, meantime, enjoying natural scenery in the past.

Grand Temple (Guan Kwong Temple)

Grand Temple is the most important ritual enlightenment place in the village. Through group activities participated by all villagers, clear moral codes and standards of behavior were established among the people. Guan Kwong worshiped in the Grand Temple is a model of such ethical values: being loyal and filial piety, brave, powerful and patriotic. Furthermore, Guan Kwong is also cherished as a protecting god for wealth and richness.

Niangniang Temple (Worship of Goddess of Pregnancy)

Different from the Grand Temple, very few activities attended by all villagers will be held here. Women come here and burn incense to the Goddess of Pregnancy to pray for a baby. The temple is small in size and harmonious with the environment. The temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Pregnancy (Songzi Guanyin), also called “Niang Niang” in folklore.

Temple of the Dragon King

The Temple of the Dragon King is situated halfway up the eastern mountain, which is the temple of highest class of construction in the village. It was built in the 54th year of reign of Qing Emperor Kangxi (1715). The temple was the place for villagers to pray for rain and pay their homage to the God of Heaven. There is another Guan Kwong Temple inside it. According to the villagers, the reason why Guan Kwong is enshrined here is because Cuandixia Village, which is near Beijing’s Ancient Road to the west, was once commercially developed. So the statue of the God of Fortune, Guan Kwong, was placed in the temple by the people, hoping that he could bring wealth and treasure, shelter the merchants and help the people making profits. Villagers in Cuandixia hold the ritual of worshipping the Dragon King on June 22nd of the lunar calendar each year.

Yixiantian

There is a natural mountain pass one kilometer further north to Cuandixia Village. It is down in a deep valley, which is more than 100 meters long and has steep sides. The locals vividly call it “Yixiantian”, which means people could only see a thread of sky from the valley. It is only wide enough for one car to go through. There is a tiny place at each turning for cars to turn around.

Viewing Platform

The viewing platform is on the south mountain across from the village, where people could have a panoramic view of the whole village, popular with photographers.

Price

Entrance Fee: ¥ 35

Address

Cuandixia Village, Zhaitang Town, Mentougou District, Beijing

(北京市门头沟区斋堂镇爨底下村)

Distance

110 KM

Getting There

It’s better to book a private car for round trip, Taxi drivers normally don’t go there

Travel Tips

It is better to stay overnight, most of the farmer hotels charge 15-25 $ for a standard room

It’s cool in the evening at Cuandixa even in Summer

Last Updated

2018-05-04 16:52:28

© 2015 WikiBeijing. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without our written permission.

Loading