Renovation livens up ancient Huizhou villages

HEFEI, Sept. 13 — Authorities in east China’s Anhui Province are racing against time to rescue ancient villages from vanishing.
The unique Huizhou-style architecture in local villages is representative of China’s late agricultural era and has earned a reputation throughout the world. The style embraces local physical features and fengshui concepts and features black tiles, white walls and sweeping roofs with elegant upturned eaves.
Two renowned villages in the Huizhou region, Xidi and Hongcun, have been listed as World Cultural Heritage Sites.
However, most local ancient buildings are deteriorating due to lack of necessary repairs.
Authorities with the scenic city of Huangshan initiated a renovation project in 2009 after surveys revealed that many buildings, including those dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), were on the verge of collapse due to roof damage and rotten timber.
With a total investment of more than 4.9 billion yuan (800 million U.S. dollars) as of May 2013, the renovation project has preserved and developed the commercial potential of 1,165 Huizhou-style buildings in the city.
“Ancient buildings in the Huizhou style can only be kept alive with people living in or constantly visiting them,” said Lu Yuefei, who inherited old buildings from his family in Lucun village at the foot of the famous Huangshan Mountain.
Yiyi Guild Hall, located in Xixinan ancient village, is an example of a successful mass renovation project.
With an exterior in traditional Anhui-style construction, the guild hall exhibits ancient paintings and is open for artists to sketch with free accommodation and food.
Xiuli Studio Village in Yixian county, another village that has benefited from the project, has become popular among tourists and film crews after 87 ancient buildings were renovated or rebuilt in an attempt to protect and restore local historical heritage and recreate scenes from ancient village life.
Several TV series set in the Ming Dynasty were shot in the village, and tourists from China and abroad come to experience the ancient atmosphere.
More than 200 art schools in the country have set up teaching bases in the region, with 300,000 students visiting every year.
According to data from Huangshan’s travel commission, 39 of 52 local A-level scenic spots are located in ancient villages.
“After hundreds of years, the ancient buildings are waiting for people today to feel and explore them,” said Wang Heng, head of the Culture Committee of Huangshan.[db:内容2]