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Introducing Yújiācūn

Hidden away in the hills near the HéběiShānxī border is the unusual little village of Yújiācūn (admission Y20), where nearly everything, from the houses to the furniture inside them, was originally made of stone. As such, Yújiācūn today is remarkably well preserved: the cobbled streets lead past traditional Ming- and Qing-dynasty courtyard homes, old opera stages and tiny temples. Actually, ‘traditional’ doesn’t quite describe it: this is a model Chinese clan-village, where 95% of the inhabitants all share the same surname, Yu. One of the more unusual sights is inside the Yu Ancestral Hall (; Yúshì Zōngcí), where you’ll find the 24-generation family tree. There are five tapestries, one for the descendants of each of the original Yu sons who founded the village.

Another peculiarity is the three-storey Qingliang Pavilion (; Qīngliáng Gé), completed in 1581. Supposedly the work of one thoroughly crazed individual (Yu Xichun, who wanted to be able to see Běijīng from the top), it was, according to legend, built entirely at night, over a 25-year period, without the help of any other villagers. It was certainly built by an amateur architect: there’s no foundation, and the building stones (in addition to not being sealed by mortar) are of wildly different sizes, giving it an asymmetrical look that’s quite uncommon in Chinese architecture.

It’s definitely worth spending the night here. As the sun sets, the sounds of village life – farmers chatting after a day in the fields, clucking hens, kids at play – are miles away from the raging pace of modern Chinese cities. Villagers rent out rooms for Y10 per person; home-cooked meals are another Y10 each.