We spent a lot of energy searching out small, out of the way places during our time in China. I want to share with you my top 5 off the radar spots. If you’re interested, I also wrote Top 5 Natural Spots and Top 5 Man-made Structures in China.
1. Kaiping (开平)
One of my favorite places in China, so of course it’s got to be on this list. I wrote about my obsession with Kaiping previously. The blend of architecture was just so captivating to me and I need to go back to visit some of the villages we missed during our trip in 2015.
2. Hongjiang (洪江古商城)
This ancient village with its cobbled alleys and classic architecture was the surprise of our trip in Hunan. We originally were going to this area to see a much more well known tourist spot, but we happened upon this place when we were researching other villages to visit, so we added it to our itinerary. During our time there we were able to speak with some old craft workers and walk along the rain-slicked alleys. The archways and old buildings were sensational and called for us to stay longer. We liked them so much we actually walked through the village twice.
3. Bagua Villages (八卦村)
These villages may be the most hidden of these gems. You basically have to know someone who has visited them to find out about them. There near the city of Zhaoqing, which is much more famous for Ding Hu Shan. If you happen to visit the area, all you need to do is take a bus to these forgotten villages. The villages themselves are mostly abandoned, but the architecture is the main draw. These villages are octangular in shape and based around Taoist Cosmology. I won’t pretend to know the history of the villages and the importance of their shape, but I do know that walking through circular alleys filled with ancient buildings is a memory I won’t soon forget.
4. Chengyang (程阳)
This was actually one of our most frustrating trips during our time in China. The main reason to visit Chengyang is to see one of the famous Wind and Rain Bridges of the Dong Minority, but when we arrived we were charged the entrance price, but the bridge was being renovated and covered in green netting. Once the shock and dismay passed, we decided to make the most of our trip and explore this somewhat remote countryside. We sat around a fire with the village elders in a Dong Drum Tower. We discovered other Wind and Rain Bridges in the area and had the most rejuvenating 3 day weekend ever. The Dong people are renowned carpenters and the impressive bridges and towers are made completely without nails.
5. Pan Clan Ancestral Hall (潘氏祠)
This ancestral hall is literally right up the road from #2 on this list, so we visited both during the same weekend. There is nothing else around this hall except for the perpetual construction that you find in China, but the building is so unique that it’s worth going out of the way to see. The bonus is that you’ll also have the whole place to yourself, except for the locals playing mahjong in the adjoining room. The architecture is truly spectacular with carved dragons and so many intricate details that you could spend a whole day staring up at them.