We can probably never obtain a complete picture of any region's history, but we can certainly attempt to do so more easily in some places that in others. The Ancient Huizhou area, on the southern tip of Anhui Province, is one place where you can easily visualize the past, especially its heyday of four hundred years ago, by strolling among old streets, picturesque countryside, and enchanting villages.
For centuries, limited farmland in Huizhou area drove local people to go all out for survival, bringing about the legendary success of Hui merchants who dominated Chinese business world up until the 19th century.
The huge amount of wealth accumulated by Hui merchants transformed into numerous townships, markets, docks and villages, most of them remain intact sheltered by the hilly terrains.
Laojie, literally meaning Old Street in Chinese, and it's definitely the oldest street in whole city. First came into being as the distribution center of the whole area for all kinds of goods, the street has been weathered through the vicissitudes of time for over 700 years.
Flanked by over 200 stores, Laojie runs for about 1000 meters east to west on a flagstone pavement just like when it was first built.
No longer a thriving distribution center, it now serves as one of the tourist attractions in Huangshan city, the largest city in Huizhou area.
Don't just shun away at the word "tourist attraction" yet, comparing to a lot of cheap copies of ancient streets in other parts of the country, Laojie has more redeeming factors than you'd expected.
Although most stores along Laojie sell local produces and antiques, if you do a little bit research in advance, you'll find some real, authentic old stores here.
Tong Deren herbal medicine store has been on Laojie for over 120 years. The decorations and layout are characteristic of that time period; and what's more, it still keeps the tradition of having a practitioner of Chinese medicine see patients at the lobby.
Seeing the traditional Chinese doctor is quite relaxing - no need to have awkward metal equipment poking around or even inside your body. Just a few minutes of pulsing, looking and chatting,
And somewhere inside these antique cabins are the dried grass, barks, roots and other novelty herbal medicine that supposedly can bring me well and sound sleep.
If you have to get some travel souvenir from Laojie that can best represent Huizhou, Ink slab is a safe bet. And it's not too hard to find a good piece here since the area is known for crafting one of the best ink slabs and ink sticks in the country.
Related Story: The Yellow Mountain (Mt. Huangshan)
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