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Eastern China's most rural province, Anhui has a rugged terrain that forces families to fight their hardscrabble farmland for every acre of harvest. Today it remains significantly poorer than its neighbors, with an average income half that of neighboring Zhejiang, a successful manufacturing hub. But what Anhui lacks in material wealth it makes up for in splendid natural landscape. Travelers
here enjoy countryside largely untouched by the last century. Near Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), towering granite peaks loom over green fields, and round-shouldered water buffalo plow the flooded rice paddies.
The foothills of Huangshan have a remarkable wealth of historical architecture. Tiny communities dot the landscape in Shexian and Yixian counties. Many of these villages were far enough out of the way that even the Cultural Revolution’s zealous Red Guards left them alone. Today, though increasingly visited by tourists, whole villages retain their original architecture, and in some cases, generations of inhabitants.