There are thousands of historical village in China. Some of them have been transformed into a for-profit tourist attraction like Fenghuang (凤凰) in Hunan province, while others, in spite of their historical value and their classification as national heritage, are abandoned and crumbling away.
The village of General Zheng
Daqitou was built at the end of the 19th century by a general of the Qing navy, Zheng Shaozhong (郑绍忠). When his mother passed away, general Zheng left the capital and went back to his native province of Guangdong for burial and observe a period of mourning.
After Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧太后) heard about Zheng’s mother’s passing, she gave him a lump sum of money so that he could build his own residence in Guangdong. General Zheng used the money to build the village of Daqitou and people surnamed Zheng moved in.
The village is set in a classic chessboard-like layout with the ancestral hall in the front overlooking a pond. The stone houses are behind the ancestral hall and separated by narrow alleyway.
Urbanly remote and abandonned
Daqitou belongs to the city Foshan and is located between Foshan and Guangzhou. It takes about 1h30 by bus to get there from downtown Guangzhou via Sanshui (三水).
The village Daqitou is not remote, but the bus ride through Guangzhou’s western suburbs and into Foshan, with its landscape of highways, industrial areas mixed with paddy fields gives an interesting insight into what the Pearl River Delta is : pockets of wealth and urban development that encroach on farmers land. From Sanshui, the bus passes through countless villages that have been forgotten by the economic miracle of the region.
The villagers of Daqitou have built new houses next to the ancient village site. People don’t want to live in these old narrow stone houses. We can surely understand them.
The fact that nature is taking its rights back, the silence and no living soul (which is very weird in China) contributed to making Daqitou feel eerie.
The village is well-preserved. They were a group of Chinese men taking pictures of the village when I visited. Daqitou obviously attract photographers for its architecture.
How to get there
Take a bus to Sanshui, a small town that belongs to Foshan, west of Guangzhou. From Sanshui, take a local bus (I forgot the bus number, but ask for Daqitou). Don’t forget to tell the driver you want tot get off at Daqitou. Buses are frequent, every 15 to 20 minutes. You pay the bus fare directly in the bus.
Between Daqitou and Sanshui, there are a few villages (with people still living in them) that look quite interesting.