The name of this village – ‘Cuandixia’ – translates roughly as ‘Below the cooking-stove’, which could be interpreted as meaning a good safe spot that’s hard to find. You’ll also find it on maps as ‘Chuandixia,’ as the character for Chuan (川) is much less complicated than that of Cuan (爨).
We’ll start our day out with a walk in the hills around the village, making a loop that will bring us back to the starting point for a big lunch.
Then we’ll take a tour of the alleys, lanes, paved stairs, and courtyard houses. It will be quite a long day, but well worth it!
The drive out to the village is long and scenic, following a national road through mountains and along the bottom of deep canyons, passing through small townships in the mining country of west Mentougou district.
The village lies on the side of a hill on the old road between Beijing and Xi’an, and is made up of many well-preserved stone buildings, including about 70 courtyards. The majority of these courtyards are now guesthouses, and the owners are usually happy enough to let people explore. In the village we’ll find much history, with old Cultural Revolution slogans slowly fading on some of the walls, and art, stone, and wood work from the Qing and Ming Dynasties. Cuandixia was lucky to escape destruction during the war, while some other villages in the area were destroyed almost completely.
Outline of itinerary
- Arrive at Cuandixia
- Climb up to viewing point opposite the village
- Walk up main street of village and out to visit the narrow canyon in the hills behind the village; hike up to caves (optional, if trail is repaired)
- Lunch at village restaurant
- Explore the key sites inside the village
- Drive back to Beijing