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 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
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?