Travel seven hours by car in a Southwest direction from Shanghai and you will arrive in Songyang County. The name is unfamiliar to many Chinese people, and even more foreign to those living abroad. The county consists of about 400 villages, from Shicang to Damushan.
Here, undulating lush green terraces hug the sides of Songyin river valley, itself the one serpentine movement uniting the lands. Follow the river and you will see: here, a Brown Sugar Factory; there, a Bamboo Theatre; and on the other side, a stone Hakka Museum built recently but laid by methods so old, even the town masons had to learn these ways for the first time, as if they were modern methods, as if they were revolutionary.
And maybe they are. Songyang County, otherwise known as the “Last Hidden Land in Jiangnan,” may look like a traditional Chinese painting with craggy rock faces, rice fields and tea plantations, but it has also become a model example of rural renaissance. Beijing architect Xu Tiantian, of the firm DnA_Design and Architecture, has spent years surveying the villages of Songyang, talking to local County officials and residents, and coming up with what she calls “architectural acupunctures.”