Village attracts tourists with mystery and myth
The village of Dachang is said to be the oldest village in Yuxian county. [Photo by Zhang Zhihua for China Daily]
Among the many ancient villages in Shanxi, Dachang at the heart of the Taihang Mountains is unique in attracting tourists interested in history, architecture and mythology.
Located in the north of Yuxian county, the village consists of more than 50 courtyards with about 500 rooms.
Regarding the history of village, some say it is about 1,500 years old and the oldest village in Yuxian.
Han Guoyin, head of the villagers' committee, however, likes to talk about material evidence.
"Han is the only family name of the village," said the official. "Judging from our family history book, the history of the Han family in Dachang should be about 300 years, since our founding ancestor Han Chongming came to settle in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)."
But this was not the beginning of the village, Han said. "Records on a stone slab in the Mountain Gods' Temple show that it was erected in 1197 during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). That was 800 years ago."
Legend has it that a family of seven went to this place some 1,500 years ago. Later they all became immortals and were memorized by the locals as mountain gods.
Han said the selling points of the village as a tourist destination include its unique layout, architectural style and mystery.
The village consists of more than 50 courtyards on a mountain slope, with a layout resembling a typical Tibetan settlement in Southwest China.
Most of the houses are two- to three-storied stone structures. The upper stories are built on the arch-gated cave houses dug out of the slope. All the roads in the village are paved with stone slabs.
Han said the most mysterious thing in the village is that one of the statues in the Mountain Gods' Temple changes weight at different times of the day.
"Weighing it in the morning and in the afternoon, there is a difference of 2-3 kilograms," Han said. "This is something we cannot explain."
The population of the village reached its peak of nearly 350 in the early 1980s. However, it has become quieter in recent years as many people moved to other places to work or live.
In 2019, there were only 13 permanent residents in Dachang, with an average age of 70, according to Han.
"But as more tourists come, some of our natives are coming back again over the past two years," Han said. "They are back to do tourism business－opening bed-and-breakfast businesses, working as tour guides and selling local produce."
Han said he believed the tourism industry can revitalize this quiet and almost dormant village by bringing revenues to locals and generating demand for the renovation of residences and village facilities.
"I hope this can bring life to this old village," Han said.
Peng Ke'er contributed to this story.