Youtian village in Lishui, Zhejiang province, has a history of more than 500 years and is now on the national list of "traditional Chinese villages". (WANG KAIHAO/CHINA DAILY)
Songyang does not even have a taxi. Located in Lishui, Zhejiang province, the county of 240,000 population is an exception in East China.
Thanks to its well-preserved old villages, its people call their hometown the best kept secret in "Jiangnan", a term used to describe the south of Yangtze River, one of China's most developed regions.
Youtian village in the county has 312 registered residents. Its few cabins with yellow earthen walls and black tiles point to its centuries-old history. Today, about 10 structures in the village that have withstood the vicissitudes of nature for some 500 years remain.
"Traditional landscape cannot be allowed to be destroyed by urban lifestyles," Ye Lianhan, head of the village committee, explains.
"There are new houses amid the surrounding old ones, but we have reconstructed their roofs and repainted their walls to make them blend in."
Once upon a time, Ye and other villagers were faced with the dilemma of how to deal with the crumbling of many old houses.
"We feel terrible to see the old houses collapse," he says. "They belong to our ancestors, so we wanted to ensure that they don't become ruins."
But, the villagers did not have enough money to renovate. And, local cultural authorities were reluctant to finance the restoration of privately-owned property.
Fortunately, a trial project was launched in 2015 to save the houses before they fell apart.