Wuyuan Xian (Wuyan County) is situated in the northeastern corner of Jiangxi Province, near the nexus of Jiangxi, Anhui and Zhejiang Provinces. It lies sandwiched in between Jingdezhen County to the west and Zhejiang Province to the east. To the north lies the border with Anhui Province.
The city of Jingdezhen boasts of its porcelain (it is called the "Porcelain Capital of China"), the city of Huangshan in Anhui Province to the north boasts of being the center of Huizhou culture (the city was formerly named Huizhou; the Huizhou Cultural Garden lies at its center), the prefecture-level city of Quzhou in Zhejiang Province to the east boasts of its long history dating back to the Yue State that existed prior to and during the Spring and Autumn (BCE 770-476) Period of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty (the Yue State would defeat and annex the Wu State during the latter half, or the Warring States (BCE 475-221) Period, of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, but would then itself be defeated and annexed by the Chu State during the same Warring States Period), but none of these places can compare with Wuyan County when it comes to sheer beauty, for Wuyan County has been dubbed the 'Most Beautiful Countryside in China' by a "jury" that consists of both national as well as international experts.
This judgement is based partly on Wuyuan County's well-preserved, ancient Hui-style architecture, partly on the county's breathtaking natural beauty that is characterized by emerald-green mountains (over 80% of the county is covered in woods), blue lakes and clear rivers and brooks, and partly by the spirit of tranquility which continues to define this area, linking it to its unhurried, ancient past. Indeed, others have called Wuyuan County China's last genuine Shangri-La, though there are other localities in China which vie for that title.
Wengong Hill, Yuanyan ("Mandarin Duck") Lake and Linyan Cave are known as ecological wonders. There are also many well-preserved ancient villages such as Jiangwan (the ancestral home of the former President of the PRC, Jiang Zemin), Likeng, Sixi, Wangkou and Yan. The ancient Hui-style buildings with pink walls and black tiles, only faintly visible here and there amid the green hills and the blue waters, paint a picturesque landscape of harmony between man and nature.
The Hui-style architecture of Wuyuan - its delicate wooden buildings and unique stone bridges - dates from the middle of the 8th century during the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty. The area's relative remoteness and its rugged, albeit beautiful, terrain, which made transportation difficult, has, more than any other factors, helped to preserve the pristine beauty of Wuyuan County. The idyllic scenery, both the manmade as well as the natural landscapes, are preserved in Wuyuan County, thanks in no small part to the continued tranquil lifestyle of the local inhabitants. Virtually every village has something unique to offer, if only a small detail that catches the visitor's eye and causes one to stop up and photograph it - or be photographed by another bypasser with you or your party in the foreground. The preservation of Wuyuan's distinctive and original architecture and its pristine nature will surely be the challenge to confront in future, as tourism increases in the area.
The village of Wuyuan itself is the natal village of two distinguished individuals: the Southern Song (CE 1127-1279) Dynasty philosopher, Zhu Xi, and the more recent Zhan Tianyou (1861-1919), China's 'Father of Railroads'.
In spite of its remoteness, Wuyuan County has always been defined by its culture. For example, the official records indicate that after the institution of the imperial examinations*, over 550 candidates from Wuyuan County completed these exams successfully. As for art, Wuyuan County is known for its traditional Luo Dance, said to be a living fossil from the ancient past. In addition, Hui Opera, which characterizes the area (note that Wuyuan County was formerly part of Anhui Province, and continued to preserve its Hui culture even after it became an official part of Jiangxi Province), is the origin of modern-day Beijing Opera.
* The Imperial examinations, or Keju, were introduced during the Han (BCE 206 - CE 220) Dynasty in an attempt to weaken the existing - and often corrupt and injust - feudal system whereby office was held in hereditary succession by local tribesmen rather than being held on the basis of merit. The hereditary system led to incompetence and abuse of power, and served the populace at large very poorly. Following certain progressive principles espoused centuries earlier by Confucius (BCE 551-479), this system was thankfully changed with the introduction of the Keju.
A corollary of the Imperial-examination - based appointment of public servants is that those officials who did not perform as they were expected to could be removed from office without risking a power struggle between the Imperial court and the local elite. Chinese society was far ahead of its time in instituting such a system of accountability; in Europe, the system of feudal lords, based principally on hereditary succession, continued far beyond the end of the feudal era.