Village children lead visitors on hikes through the rolling hills to see the forest, waterfalls and caves in the area.
Mrs. Yi -- who is 64 -- shows off her freshly harvested choi sum.
Changliu’s Wu Wei architecture features a gate at the entrance of the village with eyes painted over the doorway for good fortune.
A villager makes a bamboo basket that will hold a live chicken to be given as a gift at a village housewarming party.
Not far from the economic powerhouse that is the Pearl River Delta, it’s hard to believe that there’s a bastion of traditional culture still around in Guangdong province.
Life in the Hakka village of Changliu brings back memories of simpler, albeit poorer, times in China. Family members live near each other, harvests are shared and traditional and religious customs live on.
I recently visited Changliu village to take a look at an eco-tourism project jointly funded and run by social workers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-Sen University.
The project was conceived to help supplement the incomes for farmers in this poor village and to educate city slickers about the more traditional agrarian life as well as traditional culture that has long been forgotten in the metropolises of Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
Changliu is unlike any other place I’ve visited in Guangdong province.
For one, it’s got blue skies, clean water and forests which is a far cry from the factory and dormitory landscape that dominates southern Guangdong.
A 90-minute bus trip northeast of Guangzhou took us over a tall mountain and down, seemingly, into another time and another world that most modern urban Chinese would not recognize today.
Villagers cycle to the nearest town to do some shopping.
Much of the rice, vegetables and meat served at meals is grown in Changliu village.
In Hakka villages, a pond is dug for good feng shui.
A villager walks outside his Wu Wei-style long house. Homes in Changliu are rectangular and subdivided into multi-family homes while other Wu Wei-style homes can be circular, such as Fujian’s distinctly round tulou homes.
Villagers arrive at a housewarming party bearing gifts of vegetables, rice and live chickens they raised themselves. Everyone in the village -- some 400 people -- is invited and served three meals that day.
A feast of locally caught river fish, stir-fried vegetables, steamed free-range chicken and braised pork is presented to the hundreds of guests at the house warming party.
The most striking part of the village is the architecture. The Hakka "Wu Wei" building design of long row houses behind a gate and doorway is seen throughout the villages in the area. Simple family temples with the two predominant surnames of the village, Yang and Yi, mark the center of the village.
This is very much a working village and nothing that you see is staged for visitors.
During your stay, you'll see chickens and ducks wandering around the village, groups of mothers making bamboo wicker baskets and in the early morning heading into their vegetable patches to harvest lunch and dinner.
Visitors are housed in a converted Wu Wei longhouse in rooms equipped with fans and mosquito nets. It's simple, but clean and comfortable.
Unlike the rest of southern Guangdong, these villagers are not subject to the hot and humid conditions of the summer. Air conditioning is not missed here.
In fact, villagers sleep with their windows open in the summer and with blankets year-round. This would be unthinkable in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
How to get there: From Guangzhou City bus station take the bus to the suburb of Conghua.
From Conghua station, take the bus that heads to Changliu village. The whole trip from Guangzhou should take slightly less than three hours.
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