Off the Beaten Trail Explore in Guangzhou – Ancient Village of Sha Wan

A couple of weeks before the Mid-Autumn Festival Hayley and I decided to take a have a weekend getaway at an ancient village named Sha Wan Village near Guangzhou.


According to the local history, the village was built 800 years ago in Qing Dynasty. With many old temples, village halls, old houses and small alleyways, it is considered one of the largest villages around the area. When we walked into the village, it felt like we walked back in time with all these traditional building, lovely tea houses and for its tranquility.

Yes, tranquility – not a word I would normally associate with China unless you are in middle of nowhere. But To our very  surprise it’s one of the calmest places we’ve been in China. Yes there were a few tour groups but there was no pushing and shoving like many places.

Who is this random Asian tourist?! Oh, that’s Phil! Was he taking the piss?

Wondering Around the Village Through the Alleyways

One of the best things that we did was to explore the village by going through the little alleys. Many of the old building were in fact build my a mixture of mud, hay and oyster shells. Yes, really oyster shells – we saw that with our eyes on many of the crumbling walls of many old houses. Unfortunately, we didn’t take any photos of them. 😦

Another cool things we found out were that many houses have stained glass window. They were typically added in the early 1900s when overseas missionaries introduced China to many of their idea. Somehow, they worked in harmony with these old building.

Stained glass windows on an old village house

Another thing we really liked were the painting on the walls. They were not the typical graffiti that we would see in ghettos! Rather artistically, artist combined the real object and with a painting, adding another dimension to an otherwise ordinary painting.

Kid reaching for the sky
Where’s your helmet, kid? Oh wait it’s China – health and safety doesn’t exist

Temples & Village Squares

There were many of them. One of the most famous one is  Liu Jiang Tang (留耕堂) It is main temple of the village and it’s doubled as a ancestral hall of the village. It’s beautifully decorated with door gods painted on the front doors and dragon motif roof.

Forecourt of the main temple. Someone must had a big celebration before us!
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Not entire sure who they are, but I was told they are little gods who will give you money (those things that they are holding on their hands) if you pray to them…

Not far from the temple, there was a lovely lotus pond with giant banyan trees next to the pond. We enjoyed sitting there and look at things went by around us.

Lotus pond and banyan trees

Life in the Village

Seeing village life in another country is one of the greatest things for going on holiday. When we were sitting down at a banyan tree, we saw some girls playing with each other and pretended they had fairy wands on their hands.  In fact what the girls were holding were traditional Chinese sugar paintings. They are normally done by melting sugar in a pot. Using a ladle, the sugar painter would skillfully pour the caramel onto a stab of cold marble, which instantly crystallises the sugar. Just like this guy on this youtube video.

Girls playing at a village square

Communist propaganda is still a big thing in China. In every village, town or city you go to, you will see something written on the wall or village notice board. A lot of time, what’s written on the village board are normal thing like upcoming activities or village fairs etc.

But sometime it may surprise many people! I came across a board displaying how “the West & Christianity” are evil and they plot to overthrow China and more importantly the Communist party. There  were pictures depicting the greatness of the party as if they were some godly saviour rescuing people from the influence from the devil…  (i.e. a communist dude shot lightning bolts onto the “little” American as if he was Zeus) Interesting and let’s say I don’t believe a single word they say…

Propaganda wall behind me. The banner talked a village fair celebrating the Mid-Autumn, but the small words say otherwise.

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