The Cul­ture of Xiang­tang Vil­lage

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Wang Hui­hui, pol­ished by Mark Zuiderveld, pho­tos by Li Xiaoyin

“Cul­tural at­mos­phere comes from heaven’s nat­u­ral scenery” is the slo­gan and most ap­pro­pri­ate de­scrip­tion of Xiang­tang vil­lage, dat­ing over 500 years.

Cul­tural at­mos­phere comes from heaven's nat­u­ral scenery” is the slo­gan and most ap­pro­pri­ate de­scrip­tion of this an­cient vil­lage. Lo­cated in Cui­cun Town, Chang­ping District, Beijing, Xiang­tang Vil­lage has a his­tory of over 500 years. Leg­end had it that “xiang­tang (‘in­cense hall')” de­vel­oped from the an­ces­tral hall of the de­scen­dants of the Ming em­peror Zhu Yuanzhang (1328–1398) to wor­ship their an­ces­tors by burn­ing in­cense. Sur­rounded by moun­tains on three sides, the Jingmi Di­ver­sion Canal slowly flows south of the vil­lage with a ru­ral beauty yet ur­ban civil­i­sa­tion.

At the en­trance of the vil­lage are vast or­chards and an­tique san­heyuans (a cen­tral build­ing with two wings at­tached per­pen­dic­u­lar to ei­ther side). These san­heyuans with uni­fied carved beams are eye-catch­ing when set against the back­ground of green moun­tains and clear wa­ters.

Xiang­tang Vil­lage is fa­mous for its cul­ture. Zhu Zongchang, vil­lage sec­re­tary of the CPC, said that Xiang­tang Vil­lage once suf­fered from poverty with lim­ited ac­cess to wa­ter, roads and trans­port be­fore 1987. Af­ter 30 years of de­vel­op­ment, to­day's Xiang­tang Vil­lage has long

been known near and far as a cul­tural vil­lage.

When it comes to cul­ture breath­ing new life into the vil­lage, Zhu said that it's be­cause Xiang­tang Vil­lage has abun­dant cul­tural her­itage. Lo­cal el­derly folk said that there had been a tem­ple called Sheng'en Zen Tem­ple in the vil­lage. Af­ter its com­ple­tion, Ming em­peror Zhu Qizhen (1427–1464) in­scribed a plaque and sent it to the tem­ple. Xiang­tang Vil­lage boasts a unique en­vi­ron­ment, also a unique lo­ca­tion for the tem­ple to be built. There were lofty moun­tains and high ranges in the north, as well as houses and fields in the south. A long and wind­ing path led to the quiet in the dis­tance, and the Sheng'en Zen Tem­ple was hid­den by tall pine and cy­press trees, green grass and flow­ers.

How­ever, dur­ing the past 500 years, the tem­ple has been de­stroyed mul­ti­ple times. It took Xiang­tang Vil­lage two years to re­store and re­build the Sheng'en Zen Tem­ple in 2005. Its ar­chi­tec­tural im­age in­te­grates both mag­nif­i­cent north­ern and south­ern styles.

The Beijing Ori­ent Paint­ing and Cal­lig­ra­phy Re­search In­sti­tute, the first of its kind in sub­ur­ban Beijing, is also lo­cated in the vil­lage. Over 260 na­tional paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy mas­ters have vis­ited here and left nearly 500 works. Not far from the paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy re­search in­sti­tute is the Chen-style Tai Chi Gym­na­sium where the 18th gen­er­a­tion of the Chen-style Tai Chi suc­ces­sor Feng Zhiqiang teaches Tai Chi. With some cul­tural celebri­ties set­tled in the vil­lage, Xiang­tang Vil­lage has a unique charm of an­tique san­heyuans, splen­did Zen tem­ple, tra­di­tional paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy re­search in­sti­tute, quiet Tai chi gym­na­sium and fra­grant fruit pick­ing gar­dens.

Pleas­ant nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, beau­ti­ful scenery and pro­found cul­tural at­mos­phere make Xiang­tang Vil­lage an ideal re­treat for ur­ban res­i­dents. The vil­lage has built the Xiang­tang Nurs­ing Home, at­tract­ing many el­derly to en­joy their days in peace.

The 85-year-old Zhang comes from sub­ur­ban Chang­ping District. With con­sid­er­able wealth, Zhang still feels lonely when stay­ing home alone, as her two sons and one daugh­ter all work in the city. “I've put on over five kilo­grams of weight since I moved here a year and a half ago,” Zhang said cheer­fully. There are staff mem­bers who do the wash­ing, cook meals and clean rooms in the nurs­ing home. El­derly peo­ple of­ten chat with each other or play card games and chess to kill time. Zhang suf­fered a back­ache when she moved to the nurs­ing home, but now she can walk with­out crutches. Her chil­dren now come to visit her al­most ev­ery week. Zhang said, “I'd rather stay here all the time even dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val.”

At the en­trance of the or­chard out­side the nurs­ing home, a fruit stand with fresh fruits stands as a com­mon at­trac­tion. The fruit stand owner told us that the or­chard pro­vides sweet ap­ples from May un­til the end of Oc­to­ber, at­tract­ing thou­sands of vis­i­tors to come for fruit pick­ing and recre­ation.

The owner said that the or­chard oc­cu­pies an area of two hectares, earn­ing an an­nual net in­come of about 500,000 yuan. As Xiang­tang Vil­lage's cul­ture has be­come a unique as­pect of the vil­lage, it has pro­moted fruit pick­ing, folk tourism, el­derly care and real es­tate in­dus­tries, and helped vil­lagers lead a bet­ter life.

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