The Culture of Xiangtang Village
“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.