Shexian County is famous as the "Town of Archs" and has thousands of arches scattered around. It is the best place to explore the social culture in China's feudal society. Uptill now, there are still 129 arches remaining in Shexian, an obvious evidence of the feudal influence overwhelming in the Ming and Qing dynasties in the area. See Gallery: Arches and Pagodas
Paifang, also called Pailou in Chinese, is very Chinese in its architecture. Actually a Paifang is an archway usually made of fine wood or stone, well painted and with glazed tiles sometimes, for memory and decoration. On its middle beams are usually found moral inscriptions by certain calligraphist, mostly preaching some norms, often can be seen.
Xuguo Stone Arch: In the ancient mountain town Shexian County, passing through the gate tower "Yanghe Gate", you'll see a magnificent stone archway, Xu Guo Stone Archway, also called "eight-columned archway" by the locals. The archway was built in the 12th year of Wanli Reign (1584) in the Ming Dynasty, in honor of Xu Guo, vice-premier of the Ming government, the master teacher of the princes, Xu Guo (1527-1596), born in Shexian County, successively assisted Ming's three emperors: Jiajing, Longqing and Wanli, and was highly favored by the emperors above. The archway was built just in his honor. The structure, with eight pillars, is 11.4 meters high, 11.54 meters long, 6.77 meters wide. The whole building was composed of large pieces of stone, each of which weighs 4-5 tons. The most attractive part of the archway is her stone carvings, which show the unique technique of the local style. The whole structure is covered by different designs of carvings, such as couples of phoenixes, flying dragons and other beasts of prey. The pictures are vivid, and the carvings are elegant and exquisite, which present excellent workmanship. Around the archway twelve stone lions in different mood are standing against the feet of the columns. On the upper part of each arch, the exquisite inscriptions were all written by the famous calligrapher Dong Qichang, one of Xu Guo's students at the time. Xuguo Stone Archway is a national historic and cultural relics enrolled in the state protection list.
Four-posted and Four-fronted Memorial Arch (Sizhu Simian Fang), located beside the pavement at the entrance to Feng Kou village, in She county, was built in the years of Jiajing's reign in the Ming Dynasty (1522-1566). The three-storied, four-posted buliding is actually a square compound of four closed individual arches, each side of which is 3.8 meters long and 11 meters high. Inscriptions on the tablet commemorate successful candidates in the highest imperial exam. It is of great value to Chinese historical records.
Wu Ma Arch is located in the ancient street in Xuchun, Shexian county. Built in the second year of Zhengde's reign in the Ming dynasty (1507), the arch has four posts, three gates and five storied. "Wu Ma" is a refined title for imperial officials. Head official of Tingzhou District, Fujian province, built the arch. Most of the exquisite carving patterns are still discernable.
Huang's Unswervingly Loyal Arch (Huangshi Xiaoliemen Fang) is located in the Doushan Street. The arch was built in 1650, 7.5 meters high and 6.4 meters wide with three gates and three storied. It is a chastity arch (mostly for widowed women exclusively) to praise Huang's loytitley to her husband.
Ye Chastity Arch was also built in the Doushan Street in 1391 (the twenty fourth year of Hongwu's reign of the Ming dynasty). This three-storied arch is 6 meters high, 4.3 meters wide famous for a broad writing "Sheng Zhi" (the royal decree of the emperors), inscribed in the years of Qianlong's reign in the Qing dynasty. The eave of the arch writes 'Chastity door in praise of Ye, the wife of Jiang Laipu." Ye, whose husband died at her 25, took care of her mother-in-law after her husband's death. The arch was built to commemorate her filial piety.
San Yuan Arch: "San Yuan" refers to "Zhuang Yuan", "Hui Yuan" and "Xie Yuan" - inscriptions on the beams, which means the three supreme titles awarded to the winners of the imperial examinations. These 6 meters high, 5.5 meter wide arch supported by four pillars mark the successful candidates who participated in the exam. The unique feature is the three-tier eave decorations.
Shuangshou Cheng'en Arch: The arch is located in the east of Gaoyang Bridge in Xucun village, Shexian county. It was said that the arch was built for a 100-year-old couple, thus on the board of the middle gate writes "Shuangshou Cheng'en". Engravings of four lifelike lions highlight the weathered arch.