Hongcun is located at the southwestern base of Huangshan and about 11 kilometers southwest of Yixian County. The whole village covers an area of about 28 hectares and area which is classed as old village covers 19.11 hectares.
Hongcun was founded in the Shaoxing period of the Southern Song Dynasty (about AD. 1131-1162), giving it a history of about 900 years. One of the unusual facts about Hongcun is that the meaning of the village’s name has changed but the name is pronounced the same.
The shape of the village resembles that of a cow. The erect Leigang Mountain is regarded as the head of the cow, the old green and shadowy trees are the horn of the cow and the long lines of buildings in the village are the body of the cow. The glittering lake makes the belly of the cow and the crooked manmade canals which run through houses are the intestine of the cow. Finally the four wood bridges near the village make the legs of the cow. Hongcun looks like a sleeping cow located among the hills which are surrounded by the green mountain and a large rambling rice fields.
Of the rural residences, the Chengzhi Hall is regarded as the rural Summer Place. It is beautifully engraved and embossed with gold and painted in bright colors. The Dongxian Hall is large and simple in design. The simple Guanyin Shop is deep in the alley beside the Cyan Stone Street. There are old lofty trees and peonies with a history of over 100 years on Thunder Hillock. Green vines climb the wall and enter the yard of houses.
Hongcun has the system of streets and alleys look like square net. The ground is covered by granite stones. The manmade water system to all families forms unique space of Water Street and Alley. The village is centered on "the heart of the cow"- the Moon Pond which is a crescent-shaped pond. It's surrounded by houses and ancestral temples. There are 158 domestic houses in existence, which were built in the Ming or Qing Dynasty. 137 houses of the houses are in a good state of preservation. The buildings of the Qing dynasty not only have beautiful surroundings, but also a logical and functional layout. The village is an outstanding representation of China's traditional domestic houses.
Most villagers divert water from the canals into their houses to form "House Gardens" and "Water Yards". Hongcun is an outstanding representative of Huizhou traditional local culture, building techniques and landscape design. It is full of much value of history, art and science. Hongcun has been listed in the Contents of World Cultural and Natural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The people of Hongcun built six family schools on the northern bank of the Southern Lake. They were called "Six Schools Leaning-on Lake". In the 19th year of the Jiaqing period of the Qing Dynasty (AD.1814), the six schools combined and were rebuilt. The school was called "Yiwen Family School", or "Southern Lake Academy". The academy covers an area of over 6,000 square meters. The buildings are tall and majestic, grand and wide. The "Yiwen Family School" was honored on a stone carving by Liangtongshu, with Shijiang (a rank in the court) of the Imperial Academy. These buildings constitute a piece of art with the Jingxiu Hall and Sanli Hall. One step is one view; one place is one picture. At the same time, they reflect wide and deep cultural insight which has been left by history. Hongcun grew to become a large village with over 1000 families during the Qing Dynasty. Hongcun is still the site of the People's government of Hongcun Town.
Lexu Hall: It's also called the Zhongjia Hall and it is the ancestral temples of Wang family. It lies in the center of the north bank of the Moon Pond. The Lexu Hall and the Moon Pond were built in the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty. It has always been the place where Wang family offered sacrifices to their ancestors, celebrated and met for gatherings. Lexu Hall is composed of three parts- gate tower, hall and ancestral temples. The carvings on the gate, wall and torii are exquisite.
The Southern Lake: The Southern Lake is located in the due south of Hongcun. It was built in the Wanli period of the Ming Dynasty (AD.1607).It's a man-made lake, covering an area of 20,000 hectares. The whole surface of the lake assumes the shape of a huge bow. The bank of the lake located in the back of the bow is divided into two layers. The upper is about several Zhangs (unit of length) wide, and is paved with slate and cobblestones. The lower is planted with poplar and willows. The Southern Lake Academy and long lines of houses are located on the bowstring.
Moon Lake: The Moon Lake has a history of 500-600 years. It ism fed by a Spring which issues forth continuously. Ducks play in the pond and the breeze sweeps and wisps of smoke curl in the air.
Chengzhi Hall: Located in the middle section of the canal, it was built in the 5th year of the Xianfeng period of the Qing dynasty. It's the house of Wandinggui, who was a very successful salt trader in the later part of the Qing dynasty. The Chengzhi Hall is vast and majestic. There are 7 floors, 9 courtyards and more than 60 rooms and 132 wooden pillars. The hall is mainly built with brick and wood and decorated exquisitely engraved stone, brick and wood.
Lexian Hall: Located in the main street of Hongcun, it was built in the 38th year of the Kangxi period of the Qing dynasty (AD.1699). It covers an area of 411 square meters and structural area is 958 square meters. It's one of three halls which were built by descendants of Wang family in Hongcun at the beginning of Qing dynasty (the other two halls are the Sanli Hall and the Baoyi Hall).
Deyi Hall: It was built in the 20th year of the Jiaqing period of the Qing dynasty. It covers an area of 220 square meters and structural area is 144 square meters. In this small space, was built as a garden-like structure with small pot gardening and big fruit trees. It is amazing!
Biyuan: The Biyuan waterside pavilion is near the canals of Hongcun. It was built at the end of the Ming dynasty, but was destroyed. It was rebuilt in the 15th year of the Daoguang period of the Qing dynasty (AD1825). It covers an area of 278 square meters and the structural area is 256 square meters.
Qishu Lake: It's located in the southeast of Hongcun. Walk upwards along the earth road at the eastern entrance of Hongcun. People will see green water wandering on the right, and the plants in many colors of colors. After walking for about half an hour, the surface of water suddenly becomes wide. Qishu Lake becomes a part of the East Red Reservoir.
Wood Pit: The Wood Pit is located at Deep Mountain, which is only 5 kilometers away from Hongcun however the whole is steep. Cars can be drove to the place which is 1.5 kilometers from the village. The Wood Pit is a sea of bamboo. Therefore, it's also called "Wood Pit Bamboo Sea".