Any exploration of Shexian will reveal traditional Ming and Qing architectural features, most notably the paifang or ornamental archways – there are over eighty of these in She County alone. Wood or stone, paifang can be over 10m in height, and are finely carved, painted or tiled, the central beam often bearing a moral inscription.

They were constructed for a variety of reasons, foremost among which, cynics would argue, was the ostentatious display of wealth. This aside, the gateways were built to celebrate or reward virtuous behaviour, family success, important historical events or figures, and to reflect prevailing values such as filial piety; as such, they provide a valuable insight into the mores of the time.

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