Must see attractions in Anhui

  • Top ChoiceSights in Anhui

    Xidi

    Typical of the elegant Huizhou style, Xidi’s 124 surviving buildings reflect the wealth and prestige of the prosperous merchants who settled here. Its Unesco World Heritage Site status means Xidi enjoys a lucrative tourist economy, yet it remains a picturesque tableau of slender lanes, cream-coloured walls topped with horse-head gables, roofs capped with dark tiles, and doorways ornately decorated with carved lintels. From here you can head out further into the countryside, to explore less-visited villages such Nanping, Guanlu and Bishan.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Anhui

    Huangshan

    When its granite peaks and twisted pines are wreathed in spectral folds of mist, the idyllic views of Huangshan (黄山; Huángshān) easily nudge it into the select company of China’s top 10, nay, top five, sights. The summit's huge network of connecting trails and walks meander up, down and across several individual sublime peaks. More than a few visitors spend several nights on the peak, and catching the first rays of sunrise from the North Sea (北海; Běihǎi) is a highlight for those overnighting.

  • Sights in Huangshan

    Huangshan Summit

    The summit's huge network of connecting trails and walks meander up, down and across several different peaks. More than a few visitors spend several nights on the peak, and the North Sea (北海, Běihǎi) sunrise is a highlight for those staying overnight. Refreshing Terrace is five minutes’ walk from Beihai Hotel and attracts sunrise crowds. Lucky visitors are rewarded with the luminous spectacle of yúnhǎi (literally ‘sea of clouds’): idyllic pools of mist that settle over the mountain, filling its chasms and valleys with fog.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tunxi

    Chengkan

    Designed around the bāguà, the eight trigrams of the I Ching, which match up with eight surrounding hills, Chengkan is a highly photogenic village that hasn't yet been completely restored, with arched bridges over waterways cloaked with lilies. Buildings are in various states of repair and visitors are far fewer than at villages more firmly on the tourist map. An S-shaped stream snakes through the middle, carving the symbol for yin and yang deep into the heart of the village.

  • Sights in Tunxi

    Zhaji

    Stuffed with old stone bridges and creaking, white-washed ancient buildings, the charming, very pretty and large village of Zhaji dates originally back to the Sui and Tang dynasties, though most of the structures you will see are from the Ming (80 in all) and Qing dynasty (109 in all). Frequent high-speed trains (¥51.50; 43 minutes) run from Huangshan North Train Station to Jingxian (泾县; Jīngxiàn), from where buses (¥11; one hour) run from the bus station alongside the train station to Zhaji.

  • Sights in Shexian

    Tangyue Memorial Archways

    Over generations, the Bao (鲍) family constructed these seven carved stone páifāng (牌坊, memorial arches), stretching east to west in the fields outside their village, to consecrate their ancestors for feats of service and piety. Three are from the Ming dynasty, four from the Qing. Placards (in English) describe the acts – some touching, some gruesome – that earned such high esteem. Tourist bus 2 runs from Tunxi’s Tourist Distribution Center, calling at Tangyue (¥6, one hour) before continuing to Tangmo.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Anhui

    Jiuhua Shan

    The Tang-dynasty Buddhists who determined Jiuhua Shan to be the earthly abode of the Bodhisattva Dizang (Ksitigarbha), Lord of the Underworld, chose well. Often shrouded in a fog that pours in through the windows of its cliff-side temples, Jiuhua Shan possesses a powerful gravitas, heightened by the devotion of those who come here to pray for the souls of the departed.

  • Sights in Pingshan

    Yixian Xiuli Cinema Village

    Xiuli, which opened in 2007, is a collection of 100-plus historic structures from around Yixian County that were left in ruins because their owners couldn't afford to maintain them. Here they've been restored and given new life, with art deco touches adding extra cachet. What could be a tourist trap is actually an arrestingly beautiful, if artificial, village, curated with a film-maker's eye (it's the pet project of film producer and frequent Zhang Yimou collaborator Zhang Zhenyan).

  • Sights in Xidi

    Nanping

    Labyrinthine Nanping has a history of more than 1100 years. However, it's relatively recent history that draws most visitors, particularly film fans: much of Zhang Yimou’s 1989 tragedy Judou was filmed inside the village's Xuzhi Hall (叙秩堂, Xùzhì Táng). Props from the film and behind-the-scenes photographs from the filming are on display inside the dramatic 530-year-old hall. Parts of Ang Lee's 1999 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were filmed next door in the Ming dynasty Kuiguang Hall (奎光堂, Kuíguāng Táng).

  • Sights in Hongcun

    Chengzhi Hall

    Flung up by a salt merchant, the Chengzhi Hall dates from 1855 and has 28 rooms, adorned with fabulous woodcarvings, 2nd-floor balconies and light wells. Peepholes on top-floor railings are for girls to peek at boy visitors and the little alcove in the mahjong room was used to hide the concubine. The now-faded gold-brushed carvings are said to have required 100 taels of the expensive stuff and took over four years to reach completion and full fruition.

  • Sights in Huangshan

    Refreshing Terrace

    The vantage point for watching the Huangshan sunrise, five minutes’ walk from Beihai Hotel. Lucky visitors are rewarded with the luminous spectacle of yúnhǎi (literally ‘sea of clouds’): idyllic pools of mist that settle over the mountain, filling its chasms and valleys with fog.

  • Sights in Tunxi

    Qiyun Shan

    Qiyun Shan means 'mountain as high as the clouds' and it's an apt description: though not actually that high (just 585m) its peaks do pierce the low-lying, ghostly puffs of mist that regularly envelop the region. Long venerated by Taoists, the reddish sandstone rock provides a mountain home to temples, many built into the mountain itself, and the monks who tend to them. Qiyun Shan is a 45-minute bus trip west of Tunxi.

  • Sights in Shexian

    Tangmo

    A narrow village stretching along a central canal, Tangmo is usually uncrowded, though it's by no means uninteresting. According to village lore, the original Tang dynasty settlers planted two ginkgo trees: only one grew, and that became the site of the village. The tree (银杏, yínxìng), in the centre of the village, up a small path, is thick and full of leaves, still bearing fruit 1300-plus years later.

  • Sights in Shexian

    Huizhou Old Town

    The entrance to the old town is marked by Yanghe Gate (阳和门, Yánghé Mén), a double-eaved, wooden gate tower that dates from the Song dynasty. To the left are two stone xièzhì (獬豸, a legendary beast) and straight ahead, the main attraction: the magnificent Xuguo Archway (许国石坊, Xǔguó Shífáng). This is China’s sole surviving four-sided decorative archway, with 12 lions (18 in total if you count the cubs) seated on pedestals around it and a profusion of bas-relief carvings of other mythical creatures.

  • Sights in Xidi

    Guanlu

    This small village’s drawcard sights are the extravagant households (八大家, bādàjiā) of eight rich brothers. Each Qing-dynasty residence shares similar elegant Huizhou features, with interior courtyards, carved wood panels and small gardens. A distinctive aspect of the residences is their elegantly painted ceilings, the patterns and details of which survive. Each an independent entity, the households are interconnected by doors and linked together into a systemic whole.

  • Sights in Shexian

    Yuliang

    Little-visited Yulang is a historic riverine port village on the Lian River (练江, Liàn Jiāng). The cobbled and picturesque alley of Yuliang Jie (渔梁街) houses former transfer stations for the wood, salt and tea that plied the river; the tea shop at No 87 is an example. Note the firewalls separating the houses along the road. The attraction with most historical significance is the 138m-long granite Yuliang Dam (渔梁坝, Yúliáng Bà) across the river; it's believed to be 1400 years old.

  • Sights in Jiuhua Shan

    Baisui Gong

    A 30-minute hike up the ridge behind Zhiyuan Temple leads you to Baisui Gong, an active temple built into the cliff in 1630 to consecrate the Buddhist monk Wu Xia, whose shrunken, embalmed body is coated in gold and sits shrivelled within an ornate glass cabinet in front of a row of pink lotus candles. A cable car also makes the journey, departing from just off Furong Lu.

  • Sights in Anhui

    Pingshan

    First settled in the Tang dynasty, Pingshan was once the largest village in the county, with 38 ancestral halls and 13 archways. Its stature made it a target during the Cultural Revolution and only a handful of these structures remain. The lack of grand halls means that Pingshan sees few visitors; most who do come are art students sitting with easels in shady corners. With its canal lined with rose bushes, meandering cobblestone lanes and whitewashed homes, the village is a delightful picture.

  • Sights in Hefei

    Anhui New Provincial Museum

    To get to grips with Anhui, it's well worth taking a half-day to explore this four-floor museum. Exhibits begin with Palaeolithic artefacts (some are replicas) mined from the earliest known settlements in Eurasia, which happen to be in Anhui. Other exhibitions cover the region's Three Kingdoms Period history (including a replica of Cao Cao's fabulous jade burial suit) and the symbolism evoked by Huizhou architecture and artworks. The building itself is quite a sight to behold.

  • Sights in Hongcun

    Tachuan

    Tachuan is a favourite with photographers, especially in the early spring, when the rapeseed blooms, and in the autumn, when the leaves of the old-growth trees turn vivid colours. Year-round you can stroll the flagstone walking path through the village, past residents tending their rice and tea fields. From afar, the village looks like a pagoda (hence the name; the ‘tǎ’ in Tachuan means ‘pagoda’; the full name means 'Pagoda River') as it’s built across the steps of foothills.