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A Village “Seat”


Text by Tian Qi and Lu Xia Photographs by Tian Qi

It was by chance that I fell in love with an ancient village in western Hunan Province after seeing it in pictures: Embraced by green mountains, the village appeared enveloped in morning fog, while houses were covered by grey tiles above white walls, lining both sides of a crystal clear brook that wound its way through the village. I was amazed by the simplicity and tranquility: “I must go and witness this with my own eyes!”

I grabbed a friend, rented a car, and took off on a journey. Yang, a local innkeeper, agreed to be our guide. He greeted us at the entrance to the village, eager to share the story of his hometown.

The village’s name, Gaoyi, means “tall armchair” in Chinese due to the mountains surrounding it on three sides resembling an old-fashioned armchair. It is relatively isolated due to its geography, which is likely the reason it remained simple and unsophisticated for so long.

The village’s overall layout is clearly greatly influenced by traditional Chinese feng shui: Five roads radiate from the center of the village - a temple next to a large pond - creating a maze of the Eight-Diagram flavor. The wooden dwellings along its roads feature Dong style and courtyards are typical of southern China. Strangers easily get lost due to a lack of landmark structures. “That’s why we were never attacked for centuries,” the locals grin.

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