2015年8月25日 星期二

Taking time off in Hunan (湖南小休)

I've been busy for quite a while and because of the weather, I didn't feel like being baked by the summer heat in Hong Kong. So I took a short trip to Hunan (湖南), the province closest to the northeastern tip of Quandong Province. Hunan is the province which produced Mao Tsetung and one of the most powerful armies of the Qing Dynasty, the famous Xiāng Jūn (湘軍)  under Zeng Guofan (曾國藩) who took a decisive role in defeating the armies of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (太平天國) (1850-1864). He built up his armies from the existing regional and village militia forces called tuanlian (團練). But  after he took control of Changsha (長沙), Wuchang(武昌) and Hanyang (漢陽) and Anhui (安徽 ), he was made the Viceroy of liangjiang (兩江總督) controlling Jiangxi (江西), Anhui (安徽) and Jiangsu,(江蘇), in control of an army which rivaled those controlled by Manchu generals and was appointed vice-president of the Board of War and eventually in 1863-64 retook control of  Nanjing from the Taiping armies,  after a fierce three-day battle.Then the Xiang Army pillaged and robbed the city, killing 150,000 people and setting it on fire. The city burned until July 26, 1864 but Zeng was made Marquis (of the First Class) Yiyong (毅勇侯). From 1864-1890, nearly half of the viceroys in China came from the Xiang Army. According to our local guide, this tradition continued even after the formation of the People's Liberation Army:  6 of the 10 highest generals were from Hunan and 9 of the 20 highest military leaders are also from Hunan! In addition, during Sino-Japanese War, in the 4 battles in Changsha
from 1938-1944, the Nationalist armies defeated the Japanese armies 3 times but there were heavy casualties from both sides. It's is estimated that more than 100,000 Japanese were either injured or died but Chinese casualties were even higher, amounting to some 130,000, one of the biggest during the war. But the battles substantially delayed the Japanese invasion of China. 

 We visited an old village founded at the end of the Sung Dynasty and the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty and has a history of more than 600 years and is the home of the Liu clan (劉姓), said to be the descendants of 劉交, the brother of founder of the Han Dynasty 劉邦.  劉交's son 劉子芳 first settled near the site of the Dragon Source Temple (龍泉廟) and started some private schools (私塾). The old village, Ban Liang Old Village (板梁古村) used to survive on trade as it formed part of the historic old horse trail to Nanjing (南京). It established one of the earliest Chinese style bank (錢莊). From there on, the Liu clan migrated elsewhere and started some 400 other villages several hundreds of whose descendants went on to become high court officials. In December, 2010, it was designated a national AAA class scenic spot as a cultural-historic village, the only village under the jurisdiction of Chen Zhou City (郴州市). It's part of Yung Hing County ( 永興縣), Gao Ting Village (高亭鄉). The village occupies an area of some 3 square Kilometers at a foothill with a river and pond in front of the village. It has three main platforms built around 3 springs, one each to be used respectively for washing food, for washing clothes and for drinking. There are still some 360 well preserved buildings in the village all dating from the Qing Dynasty, some with wall paintings on them.

 A child playing on the plague commemorating the designation of the village as a cultural-historic village.

Workers engaged in restoring the old pier

The ancient private school

old tiles to be used in restoring some of the houses in the village

One of the ancestral shrines in the village. There's a copper bell for the morning and a drum for the evening (晨鐘暮鼓) and a joss-stick stand in the middle.

The entrance of the old Dragon Spring Temple with wooden plagues more than 600 years old

Some of the flying eaves (飛簷).

Some of the carved wooden window frames.

An old fashioned dragon supported by a wooden frame

Some of the broken down brick houses on the side of the hill

worm eaten poles

old roof tiles

plants growing on the top of the wall of a broken hut

Plants growing at the corner of another old house

Plants growing in a dilapidated house whose roof had caved in

a string hanging down from a wooden rafter

a broken down rice thrashing machine

recently repaired brick: note the difference between the old and the new

Wooden pillars in front of a house

A cacophony of the old and the new

Coal bricks for winter fires or for keeping the couch warm

Old stones fencing the gutter

An old threshing machine hung on the wall of a broken down house

The remains of a weed tray

Remnants of wooden pillars for the deserted house

Plants growing on broken tiles at the corner of a wooden structure  and abandoned bench

Old planks and bricks which have been there for I don't know how long, awaiting use by the returning young men who have all gone to work in the city now, leaving behind only old men, old women and children in the village

Old wooden window frames which we seldom find nowadays

Cobwebs on the broken window

Old bricks gathering moss awaiting re-use.

Working shoes drying in the sun

Firewood for the open fire stoves

Mushroom and bacteria on the bark of logs

More old planks to be used 

Plants growing into a window!

Withered creepers sealing an old window

Wind breaker hung outside a house

Home made charcoals

Buchesof maize hung on the eaves to dry

Logs of charcoal in the courtyard

Torn plastic sheet which ceases to protect the interior of the house

Remains of wooden screens

Tables and benches to be used for festive occasions

An old weed mat to provide a little protection for the door to the corridor

An old cupboard built into the side of a wooden pillar!

A primitive ancestral hall

carved wooden window screens which have seen better days

Carved wooden window screen of a different pattern

Old style wooden furniture which reminds me of some of those we got a home when I was a child, especially the the trays in the middle of the cabinet, the glazed earthen jugs and urns etc.

 More old furniture with carved decorative patterns at the bottom 

More old threshing machines

Clothes left out to dry: peasants don't like to throw away even old clothes

A wooden coffin to ready to be used when the old dies.

Old cutting board hung outside of the kitchen to dry

An old cast iron "wok" without a bottom over a stove

A covered up well in the middle of the court yard: each house has got its own well

Two abandoned stoves in the courtyard

Dried chillies and nuts for the departed?

Or is it that the photos of the ancestors are expected to bestow new blessings on the present family?

Dried chillies are a staple spice for Hunan cuisine.

Another threshing machine

An artist seeking inspiration from the ancient village

A narrow stone path between the houses: is it what that artist is painting?

Melons planted in the courtyard. How convenient! Melon soup, or melon with meat? Just go outside the house!

Even carton papers and plastic bags are not wasted

Clothes of the villagers

young and old

Corner of a village kitchen

Another part of the same kitchen

Another ancestral tablet

A lacquered Chinese couplet for the mother

The kind of bamboo chairs I used when I was a kid.

A stone hand mill

An old broom and scuttle.

A husband and wife team working on some wires

Nature and man appear to co-exist without difficulties

Toilets are typically built as outhouses

The primitive village toilet pit

Another abandoned house

The older houses are built with green bricks

Many of the older house have new plagues over their doors.

But a few of the old tile painting still remaining although their frames have been rebuilt

What is old and what are new addition are obvious.

An old window shelter

A more recent window shelter

A more contemporary imitation of the good old days

An old window plank painted over by the hands of Nature.

Another unintended sculpture

An old house with a newly built in but abandoned kitchen table

Man and Nature seem able to co-exist in harmony here

Eh, why are you pointing your camera at me!

What is he doing?

An old lady who tells me that she can hardly see now.

The flowers seem to have taken on the color of the bricks!

chalked grafitti on a wooden door

At the head of the village, visitors are invited to try out native cuisines

There's a huge water lily pond right in front of the village

There's an imposing gate to the village

which straddles both sides of the river

Perhaps some of the villagers who are now working in the city have succumbed to drug addiction. So the writing on the wall says, " Treasure Life, Reject Drugs"

Two women washing their clothes in front of the village at one of the three such spots.

Nuts waiting to be processed.

We're told by the tour guide that people in the village only plant one crop of paddy per year although they could do two but because they've got sufficient income, some of them prefer the much lighter work of planting tobacco leaves which are dried locally before being sent to a government baking facilities to produce cigarettes. 

The former private school.

The village hall which also serves as the village library

Is the profusion of lotus leaves in the pond in front of village a symbol of its prosperity?

or like this tricolor bitter melon?

or the silver lining of this black cloud?

Whatever its future may be, there is little doubt that its villagers are truly happy that their village has been selected as one of the first batch of Chinese villages recognized by the Central Government as a historical-cultural village worthy of being preserved for the benefit of prosperity.