|Xinchang Bridge on Leisurely Baisha|
Along the Baisha stand thirty-six dams
To restrain and release spring’s floods.
Fields and crops are free from drought
In a farmland of bountiful falls.
Recites Wang Huai (1126-1189) in his poem, “Fond Memories of the Baisha River,” after having visited the area around Baisha River. Since early in history, five kilometers west of Bailongqiao has been standing a wooden bridge called Xinchang Bridge. And the village at the end of the bridge is also named after the bridge, Xinchangqiao Village. Three historical locations of the Thirty-Six Weirs of Baisha River are in the village, namely the weirs of Dongshan (洞山 lit. cave of the mountain), Hanlong (旱龙 lit. drought dragon), and Matan (马潭 lit. horse pond). These are representative aspects of the millenary flow of the Baisha, of a long-standing story of water control, and of marvelous intangible cultural heritage. Not long ago, this charming historical village on the Baisha was included in the Jinhua fifth batch of municipal intangible cultural heritage tourist attractions.
Having been included in the seventh batch of the 2020 World Heritage Irrigation Structures (WHIS) last December 8, the Thirty-Six Weirs of Baisha River attracted the attention of the international community. And the Baisha has been the source of life for generations and generations of Xinchangqiao Village.
The main stem of the Baisha is 68.3 km long. It enters the region from the Shafan river basin, receives tributaries such as the Yinkeng Creek, Dapushui, Zuobeiyuan, and goes through both the Shafan and Jinlan reservoirs. It then flows through Langya Town, Gufang Village, and Xinchangqiao before its confluence with the Wujiang River.
In 2019, Baisha River was considered to be included among the “splendid rivers and lakes,” and with praises for its safety, ecosystem, cleanliness, and authenticity, Baisha River became the river model for splendid rivers and lakes.
The village of Xinchangqiao stands next to the mountains, Dongshan Mountain and Yuling Hill. The history of the village dates back to more than 600 years. Since the Xu clan has settled here, the villagers have named ten scenic sites of Xinchang. Historical records show that these scenic sites include Dongshan Mountain, Yanmai (hill ridge where the legend of the Xus originated), Yuling Hill, and Baisha River, among others.
After the war, not many ancient buildings representative of the local architecture were left in Xinchangqiao. The Xu Ancestral Hall is the only major one remaining, with high cultural heritage protection value. Up to today, the Xu Ancestral Hall is a well-preserved historical construction, large in scale and with pillars and beams rarely seen anywhere else. 80 years ago, it was used as a local school; around 1957, it was transformed into a grain depot; and many years later, it was returned to its use as a primary school, before being left empty. Today’s ancestral hall, after having had its roof renovated, is the village’s activity center for the elderly.
The village also conserves intangible cultural heritage, like the traditional production techniques of Jinhua’s liquor (national level), and the local bamboo carving (district level).
Walking in to the village’s Cultural Auditorium it feels like reliving a memory of the 1980s. The gate of the auditorium is solemn and elegant, evocative of the past, but new and original. Rows of evenly placed antique-style chairs and hanging lanterns convey the atmosphere of how, during special celebrations, the villagers gather there to watch movies, listen to opera, and hang out in a cheerful environment.
Last year, the government of the Wucheng District launched the project “Leisurely Road around Nanshan Mountain.” The project covers the area along the villages of Xinchangqiao, Lujia, Changshan, Shidaofan, and Wangshan. As the start of the road is set at Xinchangqiao, the village is a hub. The banks of the Baisha River are rich in vegetation, and a line of cycling greenways follows the river. The entrance of the village is a major symbol, showing the ancient value of the village and the design of the Thirty-Six Weirs. And the ancient bridge completes the beauty of the scenery.
Upon the launch of the Leisurely Road, cultural, tourism, and economic operations followed. Since the early stages, local leaders and party members have taken the lead and invested in barbecue, cold drinks, and street food stalls, launching economic operations and reviving the beauty of the waterfront landscape.
Such an entrepreneurial model for the rural areas has also brought benefits to the villagers. Six months ago, Chen Ai’e retired from her post, returned to Xinchangqiao, and opened a tiny dumpling shop. They grow their own vegetables and make the dough by themselves. Both fillings and dumplings are freshly made on the spot and taste like real homemade dumplings. “In the summer, people come here to swim and play in the water; in autumn and winter, visitors are here to hike and fish. An increasing number of people come here, and the demand for dumplings is also increasing,” Chen said.
In addition, Xinchangqiao is also focusing on preserving and developing local intangible cultural heritage and the tourism industry, including organic integration of tourism and agriculture. The village is committed to promoting cultural tourism and agriculture, exploring the historical value of Ming and Qing architecture, folk art, and other traditional activities. (By Zhang Yuan, photo by Xu Le, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Mariam Ayad)