In Anhui Province’s mountain city of Huangshan lies the historic district of Tunxi. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Tunxi Ancient Street was once the central focal point of Huangshan. Today it retains much of its original character. Pedestrian lanes are lined on all sides with well-preserved examples of classic Hui architecture. Views of the sky are marvelous, as bordered by the rhythmic forms of the ancient structures.
The town of Tunxi originated in the Song Dynasty, shortly after the turn of the 10th century. Many residences on Tunxi Ancient Street have survived since the Ming and Qing dynasties, though most have had their ground levels converted into shops selling various products such as ink stones, antiques or decorative bamboo scrolls that were the precursors to books in ancient China. Some of the stores have been in operation for more than a hundred years, passed down through the generations.
Vendors on the street compete to sell their burning hot chili sauces. The pungent smell of the fresh peppers wafts out of the buckets where they are chopped and crushed by hand. For those less inclined toward fire, a broad selection of local homemade pickles is hawked alongside the chilies. Of course, the main draw in Tunxi is the architecture itself. The Hui-style architecture is impeccable, characterized by high white walls topped with black stone tiles. Horse head carvings top each wall, their noses gently raised toward the sky in unison.
Each residence is stylistically unified with its neighbors, but at Ancient Street’s central intersection, impressive larger buildings are found, such as a four-story museum celebrating Anhui architecture or the Deyanglou teahouse.
Admittedly, Tunxi is somewhat of a contradiction between its commercial aspirations and rich history. It’s not exactly a trip back in time, though numerous TV and film productions have proven that it certainly can take you partway there.
The central intersection of Tunxi Ancient Street.
Visitors dillydally along Tunxi Ancient Street.
The dusk sky framed by Hui architecture in Anhui Province’s town of Tunxi.
Bamboo scrolls used to display art and poetry on Tunxi Ancient Street.