Cuandixia

Cuandixia is a historic village dating from the Ming dynasty located in Zhaitang, Mentougou District in Beijing, China. Cuandixia was one of the last stops on the ancient Silk Road. It is now a popular tourist attraction known. It is surrounded by mountains and the village is built on the gentle slopes of the north side, so their places of construction have become higher and higher.

There are 500 Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasty-style courtyard houses owned by the 70 families living here. The village holds the name of the Potala Palace in Beijing due to its unique construction style.

Travellers looking for some typical sights about rural China, with ancient architecture houses, local people and gorgeous natural sceneries will be charmed by the discovery provided by the village of Cuandixia. Despite the growing industrialization of China, the village has succeeded in keeping its traditional folk culture as well as original architecture. Remained largely unchanged for centuries, the village is still surrounded by green pine trees, verdant cypresses and a mountain canyon.

By visiting the village, travellers will have to use steep stairs and lanes paved with rocks passing through delicate courtyards, old pavements and traditional houses where local people use to sit playing cards or just looking at people walking in the street. Seeing the old Beijing people’s life is all about a visit to Cuandixia Village.

Cuandixia is “a cultural pearl of ancient villages” bursting with ancient dwellings, colourful customs and friendly people: a mingle that attracts tourists, photographers and painters every year. There is no hint of modernity at all. This means there was no internet and the facilities were primitive.

On a small hill, there stands a Guan Di Temple (关帝庙). The temple is the most important ritual enlightenment place in the village. There is also the Niangniang Temple (Goddess of Pregnancy). The complicated character ‘Cuan’ (爨) is made up of 30 strokes, meaning fire under the cooking range.

I stayed a night there in the summer of 2008 and at that time, the toilet was a hole in the ground. There were no hospitals nearby. You are literally cut off from modern society. So make sure you go prepared! The people were friendly. You don’t need to worry about booking a hostel (You can’t anyway!). When I arrived, I was greeted by friendly people ushering me to a place to stay the night, etc.

Cuandixia operates in all weather conditions, so please dress appropriately and the village now apparently charges visitors to enter. Children must be accompanied by an adult. If you are a vegetarian, you will probably need to go on a specialist tour to cater for your dietary requirements. Most locals have basic farmhouse-style eating habits.

Getting to Cuandixia

It is a nice place to visit if you have an extra day in Beijing, is located 2-3 hours from the city centre depending on the traffic, is very easy to get there.

  • No.929 (Pingguoyuan Metro Station, get off at Zhaitang Station (more than 2 hours drive), the best way is to take it before 07:00 a.m. for the station is very crowded on weekends and during vacations)
  • No.326 (Pingguoyuan Station) or No.336 (Zhanlan Road Station) then get off at the Hetan bus stop and change for a mini-bus direct to Cuandixia Village.

The bus ride is an incredible experience in itself. The views of the mountains around are great. The bus runs every 25-35min. For more information, please feel free to contact me via Facebook or Linkedin.

There are many fantastic sights in Beijing as detailed on the China Discovery website and the other major must-see nearby is obviously the Great Wall of China



Author: Piers Midwinter
I am an artist and a teacher. I am currently teaching at a Cambridge International School in Vietnam.