Reported by Wang Yalin and Ruan Bin (http://www.xnnews.com.cn)
The region around Tongshan was Chu region in Warring States Period, South County in the qin Dynasty,; Wuchang County in the Three Kingdoms Period and Yongxing County of South Hubei in the Tang Dynasty. Qin’s sword, Han’s axe, Tang’s bowl, Song’s porcelain, Eastern Jin Dynasty’s chime, Southern Dynasty’s ceramic Fou, all of these antiques has seen its long history. According to the latest research and verification, there exist more than 30 dwellings of the Ming and Qing dynasties that has values of researching, visiting and exploiting, four of which are listed into provincial protection unit, fifteen of which are listed into county protection unit. They have provided adequate real information for the study of dwellings and the development of folkways.
1. Dafudi, which lies in the suburb of Dalu Town in Tongshan County, is called “Yuyuan” or “the foremost residence of chutian”. Covering an area of 10000 square meters, it is the largest and best conserved buildings in the Qing Dynasty existing in Hubei Province.
The main glorious buildings are designed strictly symmetrical with family ancestral temple as medial axis and cover an area of 3600 square meters. There are altogether ten rooms，and they can connect with each other and be alone. It has 64 main bedrooms and 28 courtyards. “Yuyuan” is well equipped and fully functioned.
The 3200 square meters’ forecourt are decorated with bluestone, and besides the forecourt is the sermon building, Yiji drugstore, grain mill, weaving house, firewood house, kitchen, cell, and fatigue room altogether over 30 rooms. Opposite the ancestral temple is the family theater, where families watch an opera, worship ancestors and play music. At the west and the back of the mansion are large areas of gardens, bamboo, lotus and fruit. “Yu garden” is surrounded and protected by high walls. Outside the walls is Yudai River. The eastern shelter bridge and western success bridge connect post road outside the residence, forming a system both closed and open, shaping a political, economic and cultural epitome of the era.
The ancient dwellings are left by the magistrate of Jiangxi Province Wang Mingfan in the middle-late Qing. Conferred as Chaoyi Dafu, he wrote a plaque read personal mansion” hang on the porch. Today, on the high stage of “Yuyuan”, the curtain of noisy history play has fallen with only spacious hallway, carved window lattice, big cylinder and exquisite arch crown as the memorial of its lost prosperity and glory.
2. The scale of residential buildings is much smaller compared with official mansions. Most of them inhabit together as a clan with roofs connected and alleys crossed. They are particular about geomantic condition and yin-yang balance with one big family live in one village. No matter high-rises and mansion or low brick house, there is a plaque hang on the porch, either powerful or graceful, indicating the expectation of the prefecture and origin of the clan.
Baoshi Village ancient dwellings at the foot of Jiugong Mountain, which covers an area of seventy thousand square meters, are the largest and most integrated historical dwellings in South Hubei. It was first built in the Ming Dynasty and has kept 130 dwellings of various styles dating from Ming, Qing dynasties and the Republic of China, including ancestral temple, civil official’s mansion, general’s hall, gentry’s messuage, honorific arch of chastity, rich daughter’s boudoir and etc. It researched the highest level of 997 families when late-Ming was in its golden age. That is the settlement of Shu families
The quiet and long alley is covered by whole-colored cobble slab, winding and flicker like maze with some draw back, some extend outside, some lead to an abrupt corner and some direct to a new entrance. The courtyard of Sishuiguitang is designed to be ventilated and light-catching and reveal the long-cherished wish of the owner for fortune and prosperity. The high door and closed mid-door add some mystery to the dwellings. Distinct horse-head wall adorned with vivid Chinese painting express the owner’s desire for a beautiful life. What’s more, the buildings carved beams, the window lattice and screen and the stone sculpture and pier have education as well as ethical functions, building cultural atmosphere for ideal, morality, belief and religion.
3. Dawushen ancient dwellings are also the masterpiece of history. It lies in Meigang Village of Tongyang Town, and coves an area of about eighty thousand. It was first built in the Ming dynasty. There exist about 30 buildings including clan temple of Shen family, pawnshop, tea-house, dutiful son archway and etc. The theme of decorating images in dwellings is abundant, ranging from landscape, figure to insects. They have commensurate lines and flowers. Neighbored with it, Xiazheng ancient dwellings is called “double wall”. According to the record, Zheng settled down here in the late Ming Dynasty. It has kept various buildings including ancestral temple, dwellings, stores and etc, and covers an area of 15000square meters. It is particular in both scale and style. The fan-shaped wood-carving of doors and windows, the stone carving of hall and pillar and the brick sculpture of gate are all carved carefully and exquisitely, showing ancient people’s diligence and wisdom.
At every festival and at New Year, families and relatives get together, making the peace and quite ancient dwellings lively. The folk art, which mainly includes folk song, drum and Caicha Opera, is permeated with people’s joy, anger, sadness and happiness like flowers blossoming in the garden. They pray with sacred songs, toast with honoraria songs, marry in loud cry and do farming in folk music. What’s more, the Chinese dragon lantern that flies in the yard, the running lotus boat and bamboo horse and the lion that rolls after hydrangea, adding numerous vitality and fun for villagers.
An ancient building is a history book written by brick and wood, a picture painted by marl. Liu Shouhua, a professor of Central China Normal University and director of folk culture research association, has made the deepest research to dwellings in Tongshan. He writes affectionately in the monograph, “The dwellings in Tongshan are designed, constructed and shaped so wonderful that they can be called a must of Central China.”