|"Hanging Village" is a secluded hamlet in Mount Luya National Forest Park. (China Daily/Wei Xiaohao)|
There are a few villages scattered along the road within Mount Luya National Forest Park in Ningwu county, Shanxi province.
The settlements of flat houses typical in the region usually feature black-tiled roofs and a courtyard enclosed by walls or wooden fences — a beautiful sight indeed.
Spread on the sunny slopes, surrounded by forests and often with a river curving through, they are perfect gateways for travelers who are exploring the park.
But, many of the villages are deserted, with most of the houses locked, windows broken or roofs overgrown with weeds. From the looks of it, not many people are living in these valleys of the Guancen Mountains.
My local friend told me that's because traditional village schools, which were often short of teachers and facilities, have been dissolved in the past few years. These students are attracted to bigger and better primary schools in townships or county towns.
"As children left, so did their families," he says. "Now, except in the mushroom-picking season in the summer, you can hardly see young people in these villages."
It is true. Other than construction workers from Dongzhai township outside the park, we did not meet any young people even at "Hanging Village", a secluded ancient hamlet that has been developed into one of the major tourist attractions in the park.
The village, with about 20 families, sits on the top of a sheer precipice at an elevation of 2,300 meters above sea level. Flat houses with tiled roofs and traditional wooden structure stretch in a horizontal line on the cliff for more than 500 meters about 30 meters from the valley.
Leaning against the sunny slopes and overshadowed by the higher cliffs, the village looks as if it is hanging in the middle of a rock.