If you work with fantasy you can still see them: caravans, horses and carriages of merchants on the Western Road, in and out Beijing, walking and riding from village to village to sell and buy in one of the busiest regions of the Old Age. Today there's a highway, high rises and factories instead, still the power of culture and history hits you as soon as you reach Cuandixia.
Cuandixia is a small village, as old as the Ming dynasty, incredibly fully preserved. A perfect destination for a day trip from the hazy capital in a sunny day or a romantic two days adventure to check the site before an after the crowds of tourists.
Once a location chosen by a large family of aristocrats, today the beautiful siheyuan make for a gentle panorama of curved roofs and gray walls, where the ancient rules of Feng Shui decided the position of every stone and cobbled roads echoes of pans and glasses from the small courtyards that work as restaurants.
Funny detail, the traditional architecture isn't the only thing preserved; on several walls, you can still read in red ink famous slogans from the Cultural Revolution.
Peaceful, a little jewel on the mountain side, it's a small, easy trip back in history.
HOW TO GET THERE
Cuandixia can be reached by car on a weekday in approximately three to four hours, depending on the traffic. On weekends it can take considerably longer, and the best way to tackle a weekend visit is to book an overnight stay in one of the many courtyards that have rooms available for rent. Accommodations are basic but generally clean.
The village is 90km West of Central Beijing, take National Highway 109 heading west as far as Zhaitang, Mentougou and watch for the Cuandixia (爨底下) signpost on a maroon background. Then take Mentougou County Highway 007 for around 5 km. The entry ticket is 20 RMB.