Anhui: Communities of Meaning
Photos and Text by Ino ManaloWatching the movie
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I was entranced by a scene where a number of combatants leap across a pond, their feet barely grazing the surface. I vividly recall that the pond wassurrounded by ancient houses whose dignified facades were reflected in the water. Later, when I saw anexhibition about the domestic architecture of Anhui and learned that the unforgettable movie sequencewas shot in a small community in this province, my resolve to visit the place grew.The opportunity finally came during a trip to Huangzhou with Liwayway/Oishi Corporation. Our hostsvery graciously agreed to arrange a side expedition to the ancient hamlets of nearby Anhui. Finally I wasgoing to see my pond. As it turned out , there was much more to discover than just this body of water.Two of the Anhui villages, Xidi and Hongcun have preserved their traditional structures so beautifullythat they were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. Now, being on the list actually has itspluses and minuses. On one hand, it brings glamour and recognition. On the other hand, the manyvisitors that show up may tax the carrying capacity of a site. Sometimes, there are even protests thattourists are displacing local residents.I wondered what the situation was like in Xidi and Hongcun. Did the houses still retain their originalstewards?