Text and photographs by Lin Dihuan
Southern Jiangxi Province’s Wuyuan County, widely reputed as “the most beautiful countryside in China,” has used its notoriety to evolve into a favorite tourist destination. Many of the county’s once-serene villages, especially those in the east, have transformed into bustling tourist destinations with visitors from all over the world. However, Likeng Village in the northern tip remains the same as it was centuries ago, thanks in part to its natural protection from mountains.
When I traveled to Huizhou, a historic destination in Anhui Province, I stopped for several days in Wuyuan, which was near the halfway point of my journey. I ended up spending most of the time in Likeng, where I discovered a relaxing environment rarely matched elsewhere.
After breakfast, I lounged on a roadside stone bench reading a book titled The Ming History as the morning haze from the surrounding hills blanketed the village. White walls and black tiles of local residences were complemented by a placid brook meandering through the village to compose a traditional ink and wash painting before my eyes. I became immersed in the beautiful scenery while reading my book about centuries past and lost track of time as the hours flew by.
At dusk, smoke began curling up from kitchen chimneys as farmers returned home from their day in the fields. Shadows of the pointed gables of local houses stretched longer and longer as the sun fell towards the horizon. Next to the village’s Tianxin Bridge, several men chatted over cigarettes as women below the bridge washed clothes, vegetables, and rice in the glistening water.
Likeng Village’s history can be traced back to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). From its earliest days, local residents paid great attention to both agricultural development and education of their children, and this tradition has survived the centuries. Historical records note that the village was home to 16 jinshi (those who passed the highest imperial examinations), 36 high-ranking officials, and 92 eminent scholars. Of the 582 known books written by locals, 78 were included in the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature, a Chinese encyclopedia compiled during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).