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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 Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 16 - 17)

Millionaires Mansion between Luoyang and Zhengzhou


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Longmen Grotto

Today we got up early to go visit the Longmen Grotto, caves full of carved Buddhas that have been worked on for over 400 years since around 490 AD. We had already visited the Dazu Carvings near Chongqing and were not overly excited about the visit plus we were anxious to head on to our next big stop - Millionaire Kang Manor in Gongyi.

We arrived by bus fairly early and had to walk a long, long way just to get near the entrance. Paid some money to ride in a tour cart and then up to the ticket offices. The people had been rather cold to us and a bit arrogant, something we found to be true at the tourist sites with touts and agents.

Sunee checked the prices and asked for the seniors tickets. Sorry. Not at this site for foreigners. We lost interest really quick when we found this out. No amount of negotiations helped so we decided to pass - Chinese who pay Chinese taxes get senior discounts but foreigners who pay Chinese taxes do not. We decided long ago to pretty much stay away from such racist sites. We never found a place in Sichuan that did this.

Again, the people we met in Luoyang were very nice and helpful. I had a student from Luoyang whom we wanted to visit and she help set up our visit, but she ended up getting to go to Taiwan as an exchange student a month before we arrived. We were sad we were unable to visit her but happy for her success of getting to attend a university in Taiwan.

A map of the Longmen Grottos near the first entrance

A map of the Longmen Grottos near the first entrance

Sorry, no discount for senior foreign devils

Sorry, no discount for senior foreign devils

Gongyi and Millionaire Kang Manor

After the Longmen fiasco, we checked out of our hotel and went to the bus station to catch a bus to Gongyi, home of the courtyard manor known as Millionaire Kang Manor. The bus left at around 3 p.m. and took around two and a half hours. We arrived at sundown and found an inexpensive hotel near downtown. We walked around for an interesting restaurant and found a place that had Xinjiang Big Chicken Dish. It was wonderful and at a great price.

Big Chicken Dish

Big Chicken Dish

The next morning we followed the directions and in around thirty minutes we had reached our destination.

Two months prior to making this trip, I had ordered a book from Amazon to get some idea of what we would be looking for in courtyard houses. Chinese Houses by Ronald G. Knapp gave us a good idea of what we would be looking at and where to find them. This was the main reason decided to make this Shanxi trip.

The Kang Millionaire Manor was started in the Ming Dynasty by one of the most prosperous families in Henan and in all of China. The family remained united for over 400 years and gradually developed this self-sufficient manor or zhengyuan 状元 employing thousands of servants and workers to maintain it.

In 1901, the Empress Dowager, Ci Xi, spent the night as a guest on her way back to Beijing from Xian. She was so impressed by the manor and the Kangs that she called them Kangbaiwan and, thus, the complex became known as Kang Millionaire Manor.

At its zenith, it covered more than 64,300 square meters and had five main courtyards which, by the way, are still intact. It is an impressive complex but, as most Chinese buildings of this style, become very confusing as one wonders around from courtyard to courtyard and through a myriad of oval and other doorways. It was one of the highlights of our trip and cemented the concept in my mind that the courtyard houses of the type found in Beijing are not really the typical example. These big manors expanded over time with the addition of the typical courtyard house. The richer the family, the more courtyards.

Chinese Houses

Chinese Houses

Our destination by local bus was easily visible from the street and a big sign out front.

Millionaire Kang Manor is right over there

Millionaire Kang Manor is right over there

Wide view from the road

Wide view from the road

One had to walk across a nicely appointed park area to get to the ticket office. Remnants of ancient buildings and artifacts could be seen immediately.

Old entrance gate

Old entrance gate

No negotiations this time! The people at the ticket office sold us discount tickets with a huge smile and welcomed us, wishing us to have a great time.

Half-price tickets are Good

Half-price tickets are Good

On the way to the main complex that was the manor, we passed a great little courtyard that we examined carefully. Just what we were looking for.

A very nice new Courtyard

A very nice new Courtyard

A fair piece to walk from the ticket office to the manor allowed one to do a bit of shopping for "antiques" and Manor branded stuff.

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

Newly minted antiques for sale

Newly minted antiques for sale

The main entrance was set up for tourists but we were the only ones entering through the long tunnel and the opened impressive black wood doors.

Entrance into the actual complex

Entrance into the actual complex

The imposing Black Door

The imposing Black Door

Long Entrance tunnel

Long Entrance tunnel

Walk around with us as we take a look at this huge complex of courtyards and Chinese architecture.

A Side Entrance

A Side Entrance

Two guard Lions

Two guard Lions

A Old Stele

A Old Stele

Oval door into another courtyard

Oval door into another courtyard

Brick Doorway

Brick Doorway

Half a dozen old Stele tops laying around

Half a dozen old Stele tops laying around

The hottest day of the trip

The hottest day of the trip

One of many doorways

One of many doorways

The main Courtyard

The main Courtyard

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom

Chinese Red Interior

Chinese Red Interior

Library

Library

Crane Interior

Crane Interior

White Interior

White Interior

Cave for cooling off

Cave for cooling off

A real Cart - not a prop

A real Cart - not a prop

The Orange Bedroom

The Orange Bedroom

The Yellow Bedroom

The Yellow Bedroom

It is just too Hot

It is just too Hot

Lots of these Oval Doors

Lots of these Oval Doors

Lock picture - almost as good as knocker pictures

Lock picture - almost as good as knocker pictures

Beautiful Small Courtyard

Beautiful Small Courtyard

Phoenix Bricks

Phoenix Bricks

Qing Dynasty Toilet - waste not the time

Qing Dynasty Toilet - waste not the time

Another Oval door into another Courtyard

Another Oval door into another Courtyard

Another Lock photo

Another Lock photo

I took a lot of pictures to give us some concept of how Chinese courtyards are laid out. Too many pictures, too much walking and too many times confused as to where we were, made for a tiring day. This coupled with the extreme heat made us slow down on our excited exploration of the complex. It was very hot as the photos indicate.

We walked back out the entrance and said goodbye to the staff at the ticket gate and caught a bus back to our hotel. Actually, we got on the wrong bus and when we realize it, the bus driver let us off with the direction to where we were staying. Getting off at the same location was a young college student from Gongyi. She gave us directions to our hotel then decided to walk back to the hotel with us. We had a great conversation and found out a lot of how people lived in Gongyi and the area. A nice surprise ending to an inspiring visit.

Friend in Gongyi

Friend in Gongyi

We were too tired to eat a lot so that evening we got some snacks and walked around a city park to take in the atmosphere.

Xinjiang bread - a delicacy we never turn down

Xinjiang bread - a delicacy we never turn down

Gazebo at Night

Gazebo at Night

The next morning we were scheduled to catch a bus to Zhengzhou, the capitol of Henan Province, where we would change buses to Kaifeng. My readings on Zhengzhou did not show anything of interest or at least no courtyard houses so we decided to press on to the former Song Dynasty capitol of Kaifeng.

Posted by inchinahil 06:32 Archived in China Tagged food architecture house gongyi courtyard_house henan_province millionaires_mansion Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 21-23)

Linfen, Shaanxi Province


View Courtyard House Adventure on inchinahil's travel map.

Linfeng

July 21, 2009

In the morning, we got up fairly early, checked out of the hotel and with Suzie went to the bus station. Suzie is a very lucky younr lady to have a family like she does.

ByeBye to Susie

ByeBye to Susie

As we traveled toward Linfen, we began to see the remnants of cave houses built into the loess. I also got a picture of a large pagoda in a town called Anzexian that was being renovated.

Quick view of Anzexian Pagoda

Quick view of Anzexian Pagoda

A typical Shanxi CaveHouse

A typical Shanxi CaveHouse

We arrived to the Linfen bus station at around noon and met one of my sophomore students, Sophia. We checked into a decent hotel and had a quick lunch and Sophia took us on a quick tour of downtown Linfen.

City Center Linfen Bell Tower

City Center Linfen Bell Tower

A twenty minute bus ride took us to a huge monument built to honor Emperor Yao 尧 who was a legendary Chinese emperor. He was supposed to have been the perfect sage-king. He is considered to be the proto-type of all Chinese emperors who followed.

This place was huge but expensive to get in. Judging by what we saw from the outside, it was modern with not many interesting ancient Chinese buildings to see. We took some pictures but did not go in. Instead we walked along the huge area just in front of the monument.

The Recently Built  Yao Monument

The Recently Built Yao Monument

Giant Wine Pitcher

Giant Wine Pitcher

Red and Gold Knocker

Red and Gold Knocker

Monument to somebody inside hotel courtyard

Monument to somebody inside hotel courtyard

Smaller Replica of Temple of Heaven

Smaller Replica of Temple of Heaven

Commercial Chinese-style Red Building in the area of the monument

Commercial Chinese-style Red Building in the area of the monument

After getting some snacks from some of the venders in the monument area, we caught a bus back to the downtown area. Sophia took us to a Ming Dynasty pagoda and a temple complex that was being made into a city museum. It was a very good example of classical Ming Pagoda.

A Narrow Street to a Ming Dynasty Pagoda

A Narrow Street to a Ming Dynasty Pagoda

Welcome waves a Mao statue

Welcome waves a Mao statue

Another view of the Pagoda

Another view of the Pagoda

Double Red Door Knockers - I could not resist a photo

Double Red Door Knockers - I could not resist a photo

A closer look at the Big Knocker

A closer look at the Big Knocker

We finished the day doing a little shopping and got back to our hotel at around 5 p.m. We had a early dinner and tired, we had no problem getting to sleep. We were to meet Sophia for breakfast and then return to the Yao Monument to catch a bus to the Dingcun courtyard houses. We were very excited about the next days adventure.

July 22, 2009

Sophia came by at around 0900 and we had a leisurely breakfast before heading out to the Yao Monument where we caught a local bus for 8 Yuan each that took us to the Dingcun village. About an hour from Linfen in Xiangfen County are a bunch of courtyard houses, about forty total which have been renovated for tourists to check out. They are mostly from the Ming and Qing dynasties and are well preserved. Some have been touted as some of earliest example of courtyard houses in China, having been built during Emperor Wanli’s reign of the Ming Dynasty. The newest ones were built during the Republic of Chna between 1912 - 1949. This was why we came to Shanxi Province.

DingCun Entrance

DingCun Entrance

A typical Dingcun courtyard or hsiheyuan

A typical Dingcun courtyard or hsiheyuan

Map of the area

Map of the area

An Old Ming Door

An Old Ming Door

Another Courtyard

Another Courtyard

Yet Another Courtyard

Yet Another Courtyard

House Shrine

House Shrine

An Old Watercolor

An Old Watercolor

Traditional Drum

Traditional Drum

Still another Courtyard

Still another Courtyard

Containers for ...?

Containers for ...?

Genuine Chinese Ming and Qing Stuff

Genuine Chinese Ming and Qing Stuff

Welcome! Come in and get comfortable

Welcome! Come in and get comfortable

Another HouseShrine

Another HouseShrine

Side view of one of the seven courtyards

Side view of one of the seven courtyards

Twin Doors into a main building in one of the courtyards

Twin Doors into a main building in one of the courtyards

And behind the Orange Door

And behind the Orange Door

A Modern Rusty Lock

A Modern Rusty Lock

A seriously Bulky Door

A seriously Bulky Door

Good Luck is behind this Door

Good Luck is behind this Door

Another Old Courtyard

Another Old Courtyard

Qing Carved Doorway

Qing Carved Doorway

Sunee doing some Filming for our upcoming movie

Sunee doing some Filming for our upcoming movie

Cranes

Cranes

A very friendly local Weaver

A very friendly local Weaver

Traditional Red Paper to Guard the Doors

Traditional Red Paper to Guard the Doors

Hey, it is an old wooden Door

Hey, it is an old wooden Door

And here is a brick Oval Door

And here is a brick Oval Door

Posing at the Oval Door frame

Posing at the Oval Door frame

We explored the old buildings for several hours finding the people there to be very friendly and helpful. We are now convinced that courtyard houses tended to come in groups. As the family grew along with their fortune they added more and more courtyards to house the extended family. A courtyard house really tends to be courtyard houses.

Time to get back to the city for some food so we caught the bus back to Yao Monument and another to downtown Linfen near the Bell Tower.

Time for Western-style Ice Cream

Time for Western-style Ice Cream

The lights were turned on in the Bell Tower and at night it was very nice.

The Bell Tower ablaze

The Bell Tower ablaze

Another day another adventure enjoyed. Tomorrow we will be taken around the countryside by Sophia's father. We will also get to visit a cave house still in use by Sophia's aunt in a nearby county. Had no problem with sleep today.

July 23, 2009

It was around 0900 when Sophia and her father picked us up. We first went to visit Sophia's aunt in Fushan County which was famous for Chinese paper cutting. The aunt also lived in a genuine loess cave house. We were not disappointed. Prior to arriving to the cave house, we made a quick stop at a newly built area that had a huge statue of Emperor Yao overlooking the land. Stopped for about an hour before heading to the aunt's cave house.

The Huge Yao Statue - work still in progress

The Huge Yao Statue - work still in progress

Inside a Cave House in Fushan County

Inside a Cave House in Fushan County

Nice Watercolor

Nice Watercolor

Sophie friendly and hospitable Aunt

Sophie friendly and hospitable Aunt

After visiting with the aunt for an hour or so we went to the Gurangsheng Temple about a half hour further down the road. It was built during the Eastern Han Dynasty and was renovated several times up to the Ming Dynasty. The famous and one of China’s most beautiful pagodas, Feihong Pagoda, was last renovated in 1622 with the addition of a corridor on the ground floor. It is spectacular!

Ground floor corridor around the Front of the Pagoda

Ground floor corridor around the Front of the Pagoda

The magnificent Flying Rainbow Pagoda

The magnificent Flying Rainbow Pagoda

An ancient Buddha image on the second floor inside the middle of the structure

An ancient Buddha image on the second floor inside the middle of the structure

In total darkness, looking up at the Buddha image

In total darkness, looking up at the Buddha image

Orange accented Door and Buddha image

Orange accented Door and Buddha image

Working Seated Monk

Working Seated Monk

Inside one of the many niches in the temple area

Inside one of the many niches in the temple area

A Brown Buddha image

A Brown Buddha image

Incense Burner

Incense Burner

A Square Incense Burner - the kind we had been looking for

A Square Incense Burner - the kind we had been looking for

A different view of the pagoda

A different view of the pagoda

It was hot so after a couple of hours exploring all we could at the temple and inside the pagoda (only second floor opened) we decided to head back to Linfen.

In Linfen, Sophia's father let us off downtown to find some dinner. We decided on pizza. At first we thought about an all-you-can-eat place but Sunee said it would be a waste of money since she has never eaten more than one large piece of pizza in her life. We walked across the street and had a regular western style pizza.

The Big Pizza where one can have all the pizza in the world

The Big Pizza where one can have all the pizza in the world

A better and cheaper Pizza Place

A better and cheaper Pizza Place

Ordering a Pizza - the owners English was excellent

Ordering a Pizza - the owners English was excellent

Our Pizza Arrives

Our Pizza Arrives

This is My Pizza

This is My Pizza

Closeup of the Pizza to prove it really was Western-style

Closeup of the Pizza to prove it really was Western-style

After the pizza, Sunee decided she wanted to try some local snacks so we walked around searching for interesting if not weird things to eat.

An After pizza snack

An After pizza snack

More Snacks

More Snacks

With Sunee finally full, we walked back to our hotel and prepared to leave for Pinyao in the morning by train. Sophia had gotten us two tickets for in the mid morning.

Linfen is world famous for being the most polluted city on the planet. We did not feel nor did we see this pollution. Sophia assured us that the pollutions starts mostly in the winter when everyone burns their coal stoves. We did see this coal laying around at every open field and around every corner.

Posted by inchinahil 06:26 Archived in China Tagged china ancient_town courtyard_house buddhist-temple linfen shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 25)

Another Day in Pingyao


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Pingyao is as good as advertised. The houses are beautiful, the people friendly and the shopping great.

Our second day started with a quick breakfast and then more exploration of courtyard houses. So many, it is easy to get confused which one was which one. These houses reinforced our opinion that the courts are small and when the Chinese need to expand they did so by building additional courtsyards around the original. Most of the Pingyao courtyard houses were small with no more than two or three courts each. Most had a single courtyard.

I think this might have been a Shoe Store

I think this might have been a Shoe Store

This is a typical Pingyao Small Courtyard House Design

This is a typical Pingyao Small Courtyard House Design

Caligraphy done for you on the spot

Caligraphy done for you on the spot

A nice Treasure Chest

A nice Treasure Chest

Interesting Wheel Cart near the entrance to another courtyard

Interesting Wheel Cart near the entrance to another courtyard

A family Buddha

A family Buddha

Taking a Courtyard break

Taking a Courtyard break

I might be just taking pictures, but I also needed a break

I might be just taking pictures, but I also needed a break

Follow me into this landscaped courtyard

Follow me into this landscaped courtyard

A very impressive landscaped courtyard

A very impressive landscaped courtyard

A rickshaw Cart for weddings and other transportation

A rickshaw Cart for weddings and other transportation

She figures we are about here

She figures we are about here

A cool (as in temperature_ Cave Temple

A cool (as in temperature_ Cave Temple

Another nice all purpose Cart

Another nice all purpose Cart

A very ancient Pedistal

A very ancient Pedistal

Was there a Chinese Robin Hood?TGT

Was there a Chinese Robin Hood?TGT

Aiming a bit too much, don't you think?

Aiming a bit too much, don't you think?

Stone Stairs heading to the library

Stone Stairs heading to the library

Treasure Chest Cart ready to roll

Treasure Chest Cart ready to roll

A Ming Dynasty Cup

A Ming Dynasty Cup

A Ming Dynasty Door

A Ming Dynasty Door

The dreaded Blue Window among the grayish bricks

The dreaded Blue Window among the grayish bricks

A very Old House not yet renovated

A very Old House not yet renovated

Another Local Temple

Another Local Temple

A Temple Inside another Local Temple

A Temple Inside another Local Temple

Another temple inside a cool Cave

Another temple inside a cool Cave

Ancient Wooden Buddha

Ancient Wooden Buddha

YACC - Yet Another Cool CaveTemple

YACC - Yet Another Cool CaveTemple

A Small Courtyard Display - this was about number 45 or so

A Small Courtyard Display - this was about number 45 or so

Nice Family Shrine

Nice Family Shrine

Loved the Shadows and light in this photo

Loved the Shadows and light in this photo

Another Cave done in red

Another Cave done in red

Respect

Respect

Bats are not bad in China. They are Good Luck as we found out later in our stay in China.

The Bat Sign

The Bat Sign

Bat Sign from a distance

Bat Sign from a distance

Now this is an Impressive entrance

Now this is an Impressive entrance

There are Old Doorways just about everywhere

There are Old Doorways just about everywhere

A Stone Entrance is still just an entrance

A Stone Entrance is still just an entrance

This was the most Elegant Entrance to a courtyard we saw

This was the most Elegant Entrance to a courtyard we saw

Another courtyard Entrance. There were too many to count

Another courtyard Entrance. There were too many to count

Putting an urn  in front to be different. Maybe.

Putting an urn in front to be different. Maybe.

The Dao Sign

The Dao Sign

A Ming Dynasty Store Front

A Ming Dynasty Store Front

One of the Watch Towers on the Ming Wall

One of the Watch Towers on the Ming Wall

The Pingyao Wall

The Pingyao Wall

Guards

Guards

Essentials

Essentials

Our Ming Dynasty era Courtyard Hotel

Our Ming Dynasty era Courtyard Hotel

We spent about ten hours or so meandering through the allies and streets of this really great city. Saw more courtyard houses than I care to remember. I did make some sketches and have a pretty good feel for how this architectural design was built. We also did a little shopping, picking up a few gifts along the way. Overall, this was a highlight of our trip up until now. We loved Pingyao very much.

Posted by inchinahil 06:24 Archived in China Tagged architecture china tourist_sites ancient_town courtyard_house shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 27)

Taiyuan and Yuci Ancient Town


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Yuci Ancient Town

Prior to making this trip, I had compiled a list of possible sites to visit along the way. One of these places was the ancient town of Yuci located about an hour from Taiyuan. I could not find a lot about it, just that there was such a place. There might be some courtyard houses there so we decided to find it and afterward go visit the Chang Family Manor which seems to be on every tourist must visit location.

The bus to Yuci was hard to find but eventually after several inquiries we located where to catch it. A true local bus without any amenities at all. The trip was about an hour and it took us to a small suburban area that was rather unimpressive. However, we did see the area which was built up for tourist so that is where we headed. We were not disappointed.

Entrance to the ancient town Yuci

Entrance to the ancient town Yuci

Seems that all over China, if a town has an area that is old and still intact, the locals are trying to take advantage of it by renovation and setting up services. It is a good idea to attract people (mostly Chinese tourists).

A famous Thai Movie Star

A famous Thai Movie Star

A Yuci Ming/Qing Dynasty Street Scene

A Yuci Ming/Qing Dynasty Street Scene

An Ancient doorway awaiting renovation

An Ancient doorway awaiting renovation

The ferocious and photogenic Guard Lion

The ferocious and photogenic Guard Lion

One knows he or she is in an ancient city . . . The Tower Entrance

One knows he or she is in an ancient city . . . The Tower Entrance

Bridge to a local Temple

Bridge to a local Temple

Bridge with Gazebo

Bridge with Gazebo

Some very Friendly local Students

Some very Friendly local Students

Traditional Stone Stairs

Traditional Stone Stairs

Behind the Green Door

Behind the Green Door

How about a Jello Snack

How about a Jello Snack

A well-preserved Ming ancient entrance Door

A well-preserved Ming ancient entrance Door

An Old Wood and Stone Door

An Old Wood and Stone Door

The Center of the ancientTown

The Center of the ancientTown

Almost all of these tourist locations offer photography services where one can dress in period costumes and have your picture taken. For all of five yuan you can pose for as many pictures as you like, as long as a friend owns the camera.

Sunee Posing in Qing Dynasty (or is it Ming Dynasty) costume

Sunee Posing in Qing Dynasty (or is it Ming Dynasty) costume

Local Girls are not shy and take advantage of foreigners for posing purposes

Local Girls are not shy and take advantage of foreigners for posing purposes

Talk about being in deep trouble

Talk about being in deep trouble

Knock, Knock

Knock, Knock

Here are our two Friends enjoying the costumes

Here are our two Friends enjoying the costumes

The bike in the door of a courtyard house

The bike in the door of a courtyard house

Behind the Red GreenDoor

Behind the Red GreenDoor

Picturesque Sago Palm

Picturesque Sago Palm

It was a very pleasant four or five hours we spent exploring the town. The people were friendly and the photo ops were many. We were now interested in visiting one of the biggy tourist attractions in Shanxi - The Chang Family Manor. Big disappointment. The ticket personnel were nasty and refused to allow senior foreigners to enter at half price. Chinese seniors yes. Foreign seniors no. This, even though we were working in China at Chinese wages and paying Chinese taxes. No thank you. We do not do racist sites.

The Chang Racist Manor from a distance

The Chang Racist Manor from a distance

If you have seen one manor, you have probably seen them all. Advertising how great the Chang family was. Yeh, right!

If you have seen one manor, you have probably seen them all. Advertising how great the Chang family was. Yeh, right!

Wasted only a half hour to go and a half hour to come back. Just in time for some good Shanxi noodles.

Noodles for dinner

Noodles for dinner

We took the bus back to Taiyuan and caught a taxi to our hotel. We decided to try to catch a train to Hefei our next stop. After getting the tickets (not cheap), we found that airline tickets were just a little bit more expensive. It cost us 160 yuan to get our money back and buy the tickets to Hefei.

We were close enough to our hotel that we walked About a block from the hotel was a guy showing off his monkeys. When I took a picture one of his stooges attacked me and demanded money. I just smiled and shook my head in utter confusion then walked away. Performing on a street for me is fair game. Anyway, it was obvious that the monkeys were suffering.

Monkey and their anti-PETA handlers

Monkey and their anti-PETA handlers

We had been walking all day so this evening we crashed early in our hotel.

Posted by inchinahil 06:24 Archived in China Tagged architecture buddhism tourist_sites ancient_town courtyard_house buddhist-temple taiyuan yuci shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (August 5 - 6)

Return to Hefei


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Hefei

We needed to get back to Chengdu and Emei City. The best way was to return to Hefei via bus and see about getting a flight from there. Once again the four hour bus ride through tea country was pleasant. Arriving around noon, we checked into the Hanting Hotel and decided to explore more of Hefei. Researching site in and around Hefei, I found that the great judge, Bao Zheng, was actually born in Hefei and worked in Kaifeng. He had a memorial temple in Hefei as well. We decided to visit the temple our last afternoon in Anhui Province.

On the Road to Hefei

On the Road to Hefei

Bao Zheng Temple

This is a small temple and park dedicated to this great judge. Nothing fancy or unique as one can see.

Inside door to a small courtyard

Inside door to a small courtyard

These devil dogs are everywhere in China. Fortunately they do not bark or bite

These devil dogs are everywhere in China. Fortunately they do not bark or bite

How to punish criminals: the head chopper

How to punish criminals: the head chopper

Justice Bao Zheng

Justice Bao Zheng

Chinese window design

Chinese window design

The serene Bao Zheng lake

The serene Bao Zheng lake

We must be pagodaed out as I did not even go into this small pagoda

We must be pagodaed out as I did not even go into this small pagoda

We also did not go into this big pagoda

We also did not go into this big pagoda

After about two hours worth of visiting, we caught a taxi to the local museum.

The Anhui Provincial Museum

Sunee hates museums, so we planned to make this a quick visit. Turned out to be a nice place with the museum people being very friendly,

museum item1

museum item1

museum item2

museum item2

museum item3

museum item3

museum item4

museum item4

museum item5

museum item5

museum item6

museum item6

We met a bunch of students touring the museum so we visited with them for quite awhile. Most of them were anxious to try out their English on us and we did not disappoint. Always great to interact with Chinese students everywhere.

Our new friends (students) posing for a group picture

Our new friends (students) posing for a group picture

This museum had a whole section dedicated to the architecture of the provincial ancient towns and streets. We liked this section very much as one can guess.

The Anhui courtyard house

The Anhui courtyard house

Also in the back of the museum was a dinosaur museum for children. A lot of dinosaurs had been discovered in this part of China.

And these, children, are dinosaur eggs

And these, children, are dinosaur eggs

Great way to spend our last day in Anhui Province. The next morning really early (after my KFC breakfast to go), we flew back to Chengdu. Our trip had been an overwhelming success. We now had a very good working knowledge of the traditional courtyard residence of China.

Posted by inchinahil 06:20 Archived in China Tagged shopping tea china museum courtyard_house hefei anhui-province Comments (0)

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