Entering the dream
Most Chinese cities, towns and villages have a nickname. Huangyao is no exception and is also called the “Garden of Dreams” (黄姚). The surreal landscape of karstic peaks that surrounds the area, two rivers that meander through the ancient village and the multiple stone bridges have contributed to coining this poetic nickname.
Huangyao owes its name to the Huang and Yao family clans who founded the village during the Song dynasty, nine centuries ago.
So, it’s by the East Gate that I entered into a Huangyao (黄姚) imbued in mist and spring fog. Not the ideal weather for photography, but the fog did add a surreal atmosphere to scenery.
A classic ancient Chinese town
Founded during the Song dynasty, Huangyao, like most ancient villages in southwest China developed during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and flourished during the Qing (1644-1911).
The eight main slab-stone streets paved during the reign of Shunzhi (顺治) of the Qing (between ), are lined with all the the classical architectural features of ancient Chinese towns and villages : a theater built during the Ming dynasty, ancestral halls which architecture is reminiscent of the Lingnan style that prevails in south China, temples and shrines that harbors elaborated elements carved in stone and well-preserved centuries-old stone houses.
It is said that the structure of the village invokes the bagua (八卦) or eight trigram of the Taoist cosmology. I really had to use my imagination to find the famous octagonal-shaped diagram, because it is not as obvious as in Licha (黎槎) village in nearby Guangdong province.
Capitalizing on culture and history
Huangyao is on the list of the top 10 China’s historical ancient villages and is a 4A national tourist on the list of Chinese tour operators.
The 100 RMB entrance fee that tourists entering through the main gate by the ancient theater stage have to pay is symptomatic of the enclosure of ancient town that is trending in China. With seven gates giving access to the ancient village of Huangyao and nobody checking whether visitors have paid the entrance fee, it is easy to enter and visit for free (until the relevant authorities decide to do something about it).
Unfortunately, most of the seven family clan ancestral halls located within the old village are closed to the public. Yet, sauntering in the slab-stone streets in the middle of this surreal scenery of karstic peaks that has made the Li River (漓江) between Guilin and Yangshuo famous (Huangyao is just 2 to 3 hours south from the famous scenic area) and crossing the multiple bridge is an experience that has no price.
The smell of Huangyao
Staying in Huangyao
How to get there
Huangyao is located near the highway that links Wuzhou (梧州), the town bordering on Guangdong province in southeast Guangxi and Yangshuo / Guilin.
I reached Huangyao via Hezhou (2-3 hours south of Guilin and 3-4 hours from Guangzhou). There are buses leaving Hezhou west bus station (西站) at 7:20 AM, 9:30 AM, 10:25 AM and 12:30 PM. From Huangyao to Hezhou, there are buses leaving at 6:25 AM, 12:40 PM, 1:40 PM, 3 PM, 4 PM and 6:50 PM.
It seems that most visitors drive or are part of a tour group departing from Guilin or Yangshuo.