Close to Huangshan range, these two picture-postcard market towns in South Anhui were founded in the Song era of the 11th century, and reached their peak of prosperity under the Qing and Ming dynasties in the 18th and 19th centuries, from when most of their architecture dates. Of the two, Xidi is the least commercialized, with 124 courtyard residences and numerous clan halls lining its narrow, winding, mossy lanes. Sporting traditional scarlet paper lanterns, all have been preserved as they would have looked a hundred or more years ago, down to their richly carved wood gables and antique interiors – a treat for lovers of Chinese period style. Many of the scenes for Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were shot in and around nearby Hongcun.

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