The start of April brought spring rains and Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping Day. It’s a traditional Chinese holiday to remember and honor ancestors. For this year’s holiday, Jun and I decided to visit a village in northwestern Guangzhou called Langtou. The village is renowned for its ancient buildings and surrounding greenery. The village was founded during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), but most of the current buildings were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties in the last 300 years.
Getting to the village isn’t difficult—that’s if you know how to get there. Jun and I researched on both English and Chinese websites on how to get there; they said to take a bus that would go to Xinhua town and then to take another bus to the village. What we didn’t know was that there was a bus that went directly to the area we wanted to go. So what happened was that the bus we took dropped us in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately we had cell coverage and was able to get a car on Uber.
Once we got to Langtou we started randomly to walk around the village. The first thing that struck me was that the majority of the buildings were made out of brick. In most of the more modern areas of China they build using concrete and tiles, and the buildings have a distinct, twenty-first century look to them. The buildings in the village looked like they were from the nineteenth century. Many of them had plants growing out of the structures. It was nice to see more traditional architecture in Guangzhou.
Another striking thing about the village was the lack of people that we saw. It might have been because of the holiday and/or the rain, but there were many places where buildings were locked up and alleys were empty. Combined with the rain and fog it had the feel of a ghost town.
One thing the village is known for are the buildings related to schools and bookshops. Education was important there. Many ancient villagers passed the imperial exams that were taken during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The accomplishments of these villagers are commemorated through the placement of markers in front of the different schools and bookshops in the village.
After having explored the main area, Jun and I started to look for a place to eat. We saw on a map that there was a restaurant along the greenway, but when we walked over there we saw it was closed. We then walked in a circle back to where the schools and bookshops were and found a restaurant. Getting there required us to walk through these side alleys. Once we got back to the restaurant, a little girl came to us and told us that we could go in and eat. We ordered three dishes that could have fed five people. The vegetables were grown locally in the village and the meat likely came from the same area. It was quite good and filling.
After lunch Jun and I went to visit some of the ancient alleys and to look inside some of the houses that have been turned into museums. Because of the rain the lighting inside some of the buildings were poor. And with few to no people there some places were eerily quiet. It added a creepy but appropriate feel to the day.
Once we had seen all we could we went to the tourist office to ask what the quickest way back to central Guangzhou was. At this point we learned of how easy it was to get here. So we walked from the village to Tanbu Town—about a 15 minute walk from the village—and took the bus back to Guangzhou. Much easier than when we left.
Langtou is a beautiful village. Jun and I enjoyed exploring it and seeing a different, more quiet, part of Guangzhou.