Located in the town of Loudai, Longquanyi district of Chengdu, the Luodai Ancient Town is situated 18 kilometers from the Chengdu downtown and has a distance of 10 kilometers north of Longquan Town. It was named as “The First Town of Hakka in the World” and boasts the most intact Hakka ancient town in China. It is surrounded by the Longquan Mountains and the Second Emei Mountain foothill.
Loudai Ancient Town was constructed during the Three Kingdoms Shu-Han Period. The legend is that Liu Shan, the prince and son of the Shu-Han Emperor Liu Bei, had a jade fell that fell into a well with an octagon shape near the town. Thus, it was named Luo Dai which translates to “belt falling”.
The residents of the town are 90% Hakka. They were able to preserve a very thick ancient culture with their one thousand-year-old street and Hakka folk houses. The old street has a pattern of “a street with seven alleys” and has several shops with distinct architectural designs located on its sides. The Loudai Ancient Town is a place that is rich in the history of Hakka immigrants and their unique culture, values, architecture, and science.
The Loudai Ancient Town has become a Chengdu City territory where the citizens go to every weekend to wine and dine, play mahjong, and mingle with each other. The locals refer to the old town as the back garden of the Chengdu people where people can enjoy sipping a cup of tea from the frontage tea houses. It is a very comfortable and relaxing place for the whole neighborhood.
History of Luodai Ancient Town
During the Han Dynasty, the Loudai Ancient Town was only a street named “Wanjing Street”. When the Three Kingdoms period came, Zhuge Liang, the Shu Prime Minister in ancient China, revived the market and changed the name to “Wanfu Street”. Due to the incident of Shu-Han Prince Liu Shan’s falling belt, it was then named “Luodai”. It was during the Tang and Song Dynasties when Lingquan County (now Longquanyi District) was established under the Chengdu government. In the Ming Dynasty, Loudai was part of the Jianzhou state (now Jianyang) and was also renamed by the Qing Dynasty as “Zengzichang”. In the year 1955, Jianyang claimed Loudai as their 14th district with a jurisdiction over 10 townships. It was then in the year 1976 when the ten communes of the Loudai town were placed under the Longquan administration.
Another legend source of the town’s name is a river surrounding the town which resembles a shape of a jade belt.
With the well-preserved buildings and Hakka culture, walking in the old streets of the Luodai Ancient Town will give the tourists an immersed experience of the Hakka culture. The seven lanes crisscrossing the main street are the North Lane, Huanshu Lane, Fengyi Lane, Chaishi Lane, Jiangxi Hall Lane, Kangshi Lane, and Macao Yan Lane. The buildings are supported by curved roofs and designed with a traditional architectural style of old China.
Four Guild Halls
The guild halls are the most unique edifices in the Loudai Ancient Town. They are known as the Four Guild Halls which are called separately as Guangdong Hall, Huguang Hall, Jiangxi Hall, and Chuanbei Hall. They were constructed during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) and have a compound courtyard house style feature. The Four Guild Halls’ layout is symmetrical along a core axis and their walls are painted and carved with exquisite details.
The most famous of the four halls is the Guangdong Guild Hall which is also known as Nanhua Palace. It was constructed in the year 1746 with a total area of 3,310 square meters. The Guangdong Hall is the largest guild hall in the whole of China and one of the most well-preserved. There are couplets carved in its wall which is said to reflect the hardships of the town’s ancestors in starting a new life and their lonesomeness while being away from their loved ones.
The Jiangxi Guild Hall covers an area of 10 square meters and depicts a southern Yangtze River Delta’s delicate and warm style. Inside the hall is a small stage where seats are available for the audience to use during performances and acts in the ancient days.
Located on the south of the town is the Huguang Guild Hall which is also known as the Guild Hall of Hunan And Hubei. It has a shrine for Great Yu to commemorate his deeds in taming the floods during his time. The locals believe that the Luodai town is not experiencing the floods because they are being protected by Great Yu.
The Chuanbei Guild Hall or the Guild Hall of North Sichuan Province was originally from the Wolongqiao Street in Chengdu but later moved here in the Loudai Ancient Town. At present, it is a cultural relic protection site that is not open for the town’s visitors.
Located in Huguang Hall is the Hakka Museum which is a comprehensive Hakka Museum in China. The museum gives its visitors a glimpse of the Hakka migration to the province as well as their achievements. There are also various cultural displays in the museum like potteries, irons, bronzes, carving stones, coins, and other hand-made arts and crafts.
The Hakka Park of Loudai Ancient Town is located to the north of Fengyi Lane and has a total area of 40,000 square meters or 10,000 acres. You can find plenty of trees, flowers, and grasses in the garden. Visitors can rest and enjoy a quiet afternoon in the garden’s tea houses and pavilions. One unique tea house in the garden is the Women’s Tea house which is only open for the ladies. During the olden days, the said tea house was a place for Hakka women to relax and unwind while having a cup of tea.
Fire Dragon Festival
The most famous Loudai Hakka dragon dance in this festival is the “Liu Family Dragon”. It got its name because all the members who join the dragon dance performances are from the Liu families who are native Hakkas from Jiangxi province. The Liu family has been in Luodai Town for more than 300 years and 14 generations. Their dragon dance, which was developed from the old Chinese dance, has been passed down in history and keeps the most original steps and aboriginal simplicity ceremonials of ancient Chinese dragon dance.
Water Dragon Festival
The most significant festival in the Loudai Ancient Town is the Water Dragon Festival. Hakka people moved to the coast because of the war in the central plains. Since the coastal water is rich with natural resources, the Hakka people have lived in the town in abundance. Their wealthy life was believed to be because of their close contact with the East China Sea dragon king. To show their gratitude, the Hakkas would dance every summer to celebrate their harvests. Since then, the celebration has become a custom of the town. During the dragon dance, the dancers only wear a pair of shorts with no shirts. The audience splashes water onto the dragon and the dancers using basins and squirt guns. Water is considered by the Hakkas as wealth. They believe that the more they get splashed with water, the more they will gain wealth.
The Shangxin Bean Jelly is a well-known snack in Loudai. In history, when Hakkas who migrated to Sichuan due to war munch on bean jelly made from traditional techniques, they would instantly feel homesick and lonely. Because of this, the local snack was named Shangxin Bean Jelly (Shangxin means sad). Many visitors would also cry upon eating the said bean jelly not because of being homesick but because the snack is too spicy. To remove the spiciness from your palate, you could also try the Kaixin (happy) Bean Jelly which has a sweet taste.
Another local treat in the Loudai Ancient Town is Swan Eggs. They are flour-made snacks that are shaped like a swan egg. It has a crispy texture with a soft sandwich inside that every tourist enjoys.
How to get there
- You can take the bus which directly travels from Xinanmen Bus Station to Luodaihe Guzhen.
- If you choose to ride the Metro, take Line 4 to Xihe and alight from Exit A. You should then ride Bus # 219 to go to Luodai Passenger Transport Center.
- The buses that got to Wuguiqiao Bus Stop where Bus 219 is also located are bus 2, 4, 4 Express, 23, 58, 66, 71, 91, 92, 94, 122,141,200, 223, 855, 856, 857, and 858a.