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Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 10-12)

Yuncheng and Pujiu


View Courtyard House Adventure on inchinahil's travel map.

Preparations

In 2008, we bought some land south of Bangkok in hopes of building a Chinese Courtyard House 四合院。 After much internet search and seeing a few examples in the area where we lived in Leshan District of Sichuan Province, we decided to take our summer vacation and find examples of such houses in China. The best place to find them is obviously Beijing but we had seen several there and knew that they had lost their architectural impact because of the building surrounding them. We decided to take our vacation in Shanxi province where we could look at these houses without the distraction of modern buildings surrounding them.

Since I had two students who came from Shanxi, I began to gather information from them about the trip, places to visit and the houses we wanted to see. The two female students were excited that we were going to come to visit them during the summer vacation. Our plans were finalized and we would be starting at the lower part of Shanxi and working our way up to Taiyuan which would give us the opportunity to visit many of the courtyard houses.

Flying to Shaanxi Province July 10,2009

The closest airport to Chengdu is Yuncheng 运城市. My student who lived in Linfen 临汾市 told me this was how she got home. She flew to Yuncheng and then took a bus to her home about four hours away. A rather inexpensive way to start our search for our dream house. In addition, Yuncheng was the center piece in one of my favorite Chinese movies - Inn of the Sixth Happiness with Ingmar Bergmann. This is a true story about the life of Englishwoman Gladys Alyward, a missionary who spent most of her life in Yuncheng.

Yuncheng

We arrived quite late in the evening so could not see anything other than the inside of the airport taxi. It took about forty minutes to get to the city (population around 5,000,000). On the way, Sunee visited with the taxi driver about sites in and around the city. When she asked about possible courtyard houses, he excitedly told us that a new courtyard mansion had just recently been opened not far from the city. It was called the Lee Mansion. We decided to visit the mansion first thing the next day.

We checked into the hotel the taxi suggested and went out to explore around the hotel and find something to eat. The people were friendly and we settled on some familiar dishes of noodles Shanxi style.

First night dinner

First night dinner

Our room was old but huge. It had a large living room and two separate bedrooms. In the living room was a electronic mahjong table ready to be used. Since we really did not know how to play, we spent a few minutes checking out ancient mahjong on a totally automatic electronic mahjong table. I do know that Sichuan mahjong is not the same as Shanxi mahjong. The room was large but rather run down and, of course, the price was right- 150 yuan for the first night in a strange town.

Room Mahjong

Room Mahjong

Lee Family Manor

The next morning (July 11, 2009) we got up early and caught a bus to Lee Manor. Well, let me just say that we caught a bus to the area of the Lee Mansion. All we saw was a huge sign welcoming us to the mansion. Nothing else

Lee Huge Entrance

Lee Huge Entrance

Lee Welcoming Sign

Lee Welcoming Sign

After trying to figure out the lay of the land, we decided to call the number provided by the sign. A man immediately came out to pick us up with a tourist golf cart. The man was very friendly and was happy to see us after charging us six yuan each for the ride.

Telephone Number

Telephone Number

The Lee Mansion complex was divided into two parts - old mansion stuff and newly built museum-like stuff. Check out the obvious touristy buildings and architecture which was just completed this year to draw some visitors.

The Main Entrance

The Main Entrance

New Red Door

New Red Door

All Newly Minted Buidlings

All Newly Minted Buidlings

A Newly Carved Stone Mural

A Newly Carved Stone Mural

A Close Look At a Carving

A Close Look At a Carving

More New Buildings

More New Buildings

A New Wooden Door

A New Wooden Door

Chinese Door Knocker Closeup

Chinese Door Knocker Closeup

Door Knocker

Door Knocker

More Doors

More Doors

Movie Making

Movie Making

Not the KInd of Building Courtyard we wanted

Not the KInd of Building Courtyard we wanted

New Courtyard building

New Courtyard building

Another Courtyard

Another Courtyard

Lee Family Daily Activity Watercolor

Lee Family Daily Activity Watercolor

Sculpture of Lee Family

Sculpture of Lee Family

Old Hitching Post

Old Hitching Post

Bronze of a family worker

Bronze of a family worker

New Porch

New Porch

Courtyard Yard View

Courtyard Yard View

Another Porch

Another Porch

Posing But Getting Really Bored

Posing But Getting Really Bored

It was a good thing we got in for half price because of our ages because up to this point, we were not excited by what we had seen. Emei City and most of the larger towns in Sichuan have already built replicas of what appears to be Ming-style buildings to draw tourists. This was simply boring!

To the back of this new area was what appeared to be older buildings so we headed in the direction of the pagoda we saw in the distance.

A Pagoda in the back of the new buildings

A Pagoda in the back of the new buildings

Finally a building that may have been an original

Finally a building that may have been an original

An ancient stele. Things are looking up for our Courtyard Adventure

An ancient stele. Things are looking up for our Courtyard Adventure

These turtles on the stele are for rubbing so this one is old

These turtles on the stele are for rubbing so this one is old

Wrong! This is a freshly carved waterbarrel

Wrong! This is a freshly carved waterbarrel

This next set of buildings were a mixture of old and renovated. We seem to be getting close to something old.

The Typical Chinese Oval Interior Door

The Typical Chinese Oval Interior Door

This area displayed the Western Influence on the Lee Family

This area displayed the Western Influence on the Lee Family

The Entrance to the real Lee Mansion - about 15 feet below the surface

The Entrance to the real Lee Mansion - about 15 feet below the surface

Ancient Engraving done for you now of the Lee Mansion

Ancient Engraving done for you now of the Lee Mansion

Original Stone Doors

Original Stone Doors

Real Old Carvings

Real Old Carvings

Fantastic Wooden Doors

Fantastic Wooden Doors

As you probably have guessed, we are now in the real Lee Mansion. The stuff on top and to the front was added to enhance the ability to draw the local Chinese tourists. For us it was boring and overdone, telling over and over how great and socially beneficial the Lee Family had been to the local community. That is probably why the Lees lived so far away from Yuncheng. The real Courtyard House begins.

Beautifully Done Woodcarvings

Beautifully Done Woodcarvings

A Real Shanxi Courtyard Section

A Real Shanxi Courtyard Section

We slowly began to realize that a mansion in ancient China may have been made up of a bunch of classical Chinese court yards. There were at least five that we counted in this complex. The Chinese wealthy and nobility must not have built huge residences all at once but added on court yard sections as their families grew or their wealth increased. I am just guessing based on what we were seeing with the Lee Mansion. Will remember to look closely and ask questions as we visit other such mansions.

Stone Oval Door

Stone Oval Door

Shanxi and Shaanxi are famous for their location on the loess plateau 黄土高原。We saw this loess in our many trips to Xian where there were lots of cave houses. It seems that the Lee Mansion was dug down into this loess and that explains why it was quite a distance from Yuncheng and set below the new area above.

A Cave Room

A Cave Room

Nice Carved Entry

Nice Carved Entry

The area that differentiated the real Lee Mansion from the tourist site was stark in its contrast. One walks through a series of long allies that lead to a park that is being renovated. It is surrounded by a new brick wall where the pagoda we saw earlier stands. It was not quite finished but the park will have a beautiful pond with all the Chinese trimmings when it is done.

An Octagon Window

An Octagon Window

Allies Leading Away from the Real Mansion

Allies Leading Away from the Real Mansion

An Oval Window with Park View

An Oval Window with Park View

The Pagoda

The Pagoda

A Rickshaw Prop

A Rickshaw Prop

Getting Back to the New Section

Getting Back to the New Section

Lee MansionExit

Lee MansionExit

Good Luck_Gold Coins

Good Luck_Gold Coins

It was hot so we were considering heading out but noticed the apparent kids theme park across the parking lot. This was obviously set up to draw in Chinese families. I talked Sunee into walking the great distance in the hot sun to check it out. We were both disappointed as it was really for kids

Kids' Theme Park

Kids' Theme Park

A Huge Red Entrance

A Huge Red Entrance

Posing

Posing

Red Door Lion

Red Door Lion

ART PHOTO - Swaying Wall

ART PHOTO - Swaying Wall

ART PHOTO - Hitching Post

ART PHOTO - Hitching Post

Gothic Catholic Church of Yuncheng

We arrived back in Yuncheng by bus at around 2 PM and went looking for the Catholic church that was one of the four remaining Gothic cathedrals in China. It was situated on a large hill overlooking the northwest section of the city. It was built in 1935 and became famous for its architectural design. The Catholics first came to Yuncheng when Italian Jesuits arrived in the mid 1600s. The church did not disappoint.

Definitely a Gothic Cathedral

Definitely a Gothic Cathedral

Mary with Jesus in a Chinese gazebo

Mary with Jesus in a Chinese gazebo

The stunning interior

The stunning interior

Guan Wang Temple

This very old Buddhist temple was right across the street from the Catholic church. Not sure who Guan Wang was but the temple looked to be Song Dynasty. It made for some interesting pictures.

Guan Wang Temple

Guan Wang Temple

Very Old Carved dragons

Very Old Carved dragons

Ancient Steles

Ancient Steles

The Temple Wall

The Temple Wall

A Great Looking Wooden Monk

A Great Looking Wooden Monk

The Temple Courtyard

The Temple Courtyard

ART PHOTO: Leaning Bike

ART PHOTO: Leaning Bike

Detailed Carvings

Detailed Carvings

Dragon Pole And Lantern

Dragon Pole And Lantern

Guard Dog

Guard Dog

After spending about an hour in the temple, we headed back to our hotel and had a late Yuncheng lunch. The Lee Mansion turned out to be pretty good with about five or so courtyard sections. The Catholic church was beautiful and the Buddhist Temple was old and very photogenic. A good day.

A Late Lunch

A Late Lunch

Pujiu And Ying Ying Pagoda

Once upon a time during the Tang Dynasty, a lady with her young daughter YingYIng 盈盈 was traveling to Chang'An and took rest in the local temple near Puchiu. Also in the temple resting and on his way to Chang'an was a young scholar by the name of Zhang Sheng. During their visit to the temple, they fell in love. Thus begins the Romance of The West Chamber, a celebrated novel written during the Yuan Dynasty. Welcome to Puchiu Temple and the YingYing Pagoda named in honor of the above young lady.

We left Yuncheng very early in a care we rented to take us to Puchiu. Puchiu is a small nondescript town with very few things to see. Few that is if one is not counting the famous Puchiu Temple with the Ying Ying Pagoda of West Chamber Fame. It was worth the trip.

On the way we came across a very large funeral procession. There were hundreds of mourners dressed in white spread out along the road for several hundred meters.

A Funeral

A Funeral

We got settled in a small hotel in the middle of town and immediately found a bus to the Pujiu Temple.

The YingYing Pagoda and Pujiu Temple

The YingYing Pagoda and Pujiu Temple

The Pagoda

The Pagoda

Always On Guard

Always On Guard

Have To Buy Tickets

Have To Buy Tickets

Buy A Lock And Leave It

Buy A Lock And Leave It

The Big Bell

The Big Bell

A Happy And Fat Buddha

A Happy And Fat Buddha

A Nice Bronze near the top of the entrance

A Nice Bronze near the top of the entrance

A Painted Buddha

A Painted Buddha

This is a monk that Sunee visited with and he was very friendly

This is a monk that Sunee visited with and he was very friendly

It is hot in July in China and Sunee was hot.

It is hot in July in China and Sunee was hot.

This temple complex was built on what appeared to be loess and remained while the surrounding area was gradually worn down by farming or normal wear as the temple was very ancient going back to the Tang Dynasty. At least the location had a temple on it throughout its history.

The Temple Area Stairs

The Temple Area Stairs

Red Doors

Red Doors

I asked about a very nice sign under a roof. Sunee told me what it said and it was boring. Mostly just rules for tourists. How disappointing!

A nice roofed Sign

A nice roofed Sign

An Orange Buddha

An Orange Buddha

Pink Buddha

Pink Buddha

Pagoda up close. It is nice and has a weird echo effect if pounded on with stones. Legend has it that the guy who built it hid a couple of gold frogs in it and so people tap the building looking for a hollow place in it.

Ying Ying Pagoda

Ying Ying Pagoda

A Dark Buddha

A Dark Buddha

Drum Tower

Drum Tower

We finished looking over the Puchiu Temple then negotiated a ride in a cute three wheeled vehicle to take us to some more of the sites in the area. The Guang Lou is one of the best examples of

Guangque

Guangque

Guangque Attic was originally built during the Northern Zhou Dynasty and destroyed during the Yuan Dynasy. The current one was built on the original site. Sunee was not interested so I paid my money and walked about a mile to the structure from the main entrance. I thought it was worth the walk.

Guangque Attic Close

Guangque Attic Close

Intricate Painting on the Front

Intricate Painting on the Front

There were elevators to take the tourists to the various floors. I caught it to the top floor for a magnificent view of the area. In addition, we were entertained by a lovely lady playing the gucheng.

Gucheng

Gucheng

When I walked back to our rented three-wheeler, Sunee was very hot so we took a few minutes to get water and then headed for some cave houses that were in the area. I wanted to see cave houses while in Shanxi. Most of the cave houses were long gone and only a few remained.

Abandoned Cave House

Abandoned Cave House

This is the top of an ancient stele that was laying around near these cave houses.

Ancient SteleHead

Ancient SteleHead

Back to Pujiu for lunch and then we tried to get a bus ticket to Luoyang in Henan Province about six to eight hours away. Sunee demanded we go visit the ShaoLin Temple so it was off to Luoyang. Got lucky and found a bus that would be leaving at around 6 am the next morning. Near the bus station we found some interesting bronze X-rated statues. This is just a more modest example.

Bronze Statue

Bronze Statue

Posted by inchinahil 06:37 Archived in China Tagged food architecture cities china tourist_sites ancient_town courtyard_house shanxi_province

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