A wall of gold has been mounted on Shu brocade.
Craftsmen from Wu collect spare change
To pay tribute to the abundance of a myriad of families.
The watchtowers of the city rise to great heights.
The bustling scene is truly impressive.
It is a chance to explore vestiges of bygone days.
-excerpt from a poem on the Qing Dynasty remake of Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú
Located in the foothills of the Yellow Mountains, Tunxi is a wonderful gateway for exploration into the Anhui region of China.
Considered to be one of the 3 districts of Huangshan City (Huangshan, Huizhou, Tunxi), the area was originally settled during the Jin Dynasty (265-420) and was known as Xin’an Shire until the Song Dynasty (960-1279) when the name was officially changed to Huizhou. What we now call Tunxi Old Street dates back to this period, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that the street began to blossom with the help of an Anhui merchant who oversaw the building of 47 shops in the hopes of attracting businessmen to the area. His investment paid off, and Tunxi evolved into a major distribution center of the Anhui region during the Qing Dynasty.
Many of the old street’s businesses are more than 100 years old (like the Tong De Ren Medicine Shop which was founded in the 2nd year of the Tongzhi Period); and visitors can still find them filled with many items that the Anhui region is famous for. On one hand, this can make Tunxi feel like a kind of tourist trap- but on the other, the town can be considered to be a series of galleries where art and history come together.
Here, the 4 treasures of the study can be found: ink, beautifully carved ink stones, handmade paper, and brushes, alongside Hui style paintings, potted landscapes, and carved tree roots…these items are interwoven with antiques and tea shops where you can taste the famous Maofeng, Qimen, and Dafang teas, all produced in the region. Sure, there are also a handful of shops on the street that are filled with trinkety items, but there is more than enough of the genuine to keep one interested for a pleasant afternoon of browsing before heading over to the local market on the other side of town, where shao bing, mantou, various stir fries, dumplings and pancakes reign supreme.
Tunxi is the perfect ‘home base’ for people who want to branch out and explore Honcun, Xidi, Mukaeng, Huizhou, and the Yellow Mountains. Look beyond the crazy crowds of the Chinese tour groups that besiege the town during the day. Wander out with the sun rise as the shops wake up, and admire the shifting angles of light. Contemplate the beauty of the historic buildings, the crooked cobbles, the river at sunset, the art (check out the artist studios on the street near the river), the strangeness that is hairy tofu, and the delicious surprises that lurk on the side streets (we had one of the most fun nights of eating, and best dumpling soups ever, in a quiet Tunxi alley). It is possible to have a wonderful time in the midst of all the hubub! Mix in the fact that Old Street has not one, but two traditional style guesthouses tucked off the main route, where you can go to sleep feeling like you have been transported back in time, and you have all the makings for a memorable experience…
The bus station is about a 10 minute/ 10 Yuan taxi ride from Old Street, where it is possible to catch regularly scheduled busses to all of the local points of interest.
Tunxi to Huncun/Xidi/Mukeng —- about 1 hour 20 minute travel time, 16 RMB (there is a bus transfer in Yixian)
Tunxi to the base of the Yellow Mountain —- about 1 hour to base, 20 RMB / shuttle bus to cable car base and walking trailhead 15 min, 19 RMB