Jiuyuan, a Picturesque Village
In the village, ancient trails, ruins of a mountain pass, bridges, and old residences constitute a picturesque view of suburban Beijing.
In his “Qiusi” (“Autumn Thoughts”), Ma Zhiyuan (1250–1321) of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) wrote, “A withered vine, an ancient tree, crows at dusk; A little bridge, a flowing stream, some huts; An old road, wind out of the west, an emaciated horse; On the horizon at sunset is a heart-broken man,” describing the nostalgia of travelers of their hometowns. The scene described in Ma's poem is located in Jiuyuan Village, east Wangping Town, Mentougou District.
Jiuyuan Village covers an area of 3.9 square kilometres, where ancient trails, ruins of a mountain pass, bridges and old residences constitute a picturesque view of suburban Beijing .
During the Yuan and Ming (1368–1644) dynasties, for Beijing residents, the capital relied on burning coal produced from Beijing's western mountainous areas for cooking and heating. Moreover, stones excavated in the mountainous areas became building materials of residences of imperial families. Numerous trade caravans travelled from Inner Mongolia and Shanxi to urban Beijing along this mountainous route. Many ancient villages have been dotted along this business route, one of which being Jiuyuan Village.
Surrounded by a mountain, Jiuyuan consists of four sub-villages: Jiuyuan, Dongluopo, Xiluopo and Qiaoerjian. The villagers lived a quiet pastoral life for hundreds of years but sometimes their peace was interrupted by bustling caravans. In the past the villagers grew vegetables for a living. The village was famous for good leeks because they were watered by many sweet springs. With the lapse of time, the village was named Jiuyuan (“a leek patch”).
The road leading to Jiuyuan Village is full of twists and turns, but many cherry, apricot, pear, jujube and walnut trees are along the road with roses and morning glories dotted among the trees.
Upon entering Jiuyuan village, one can see courtyards built from grey bricks with carved beams and painted columns surrounded by trees and flowers along a river. A small stone bridge with white stone railings arch over the river with gurgling springs below. Some villagers wash their
clothes by the springs and some sit under the tree shade.
But where is the residence of legend Ma Zhiyuan? Walking along a stream and across a timber bridge, one can find an old courtyard with old trees in front of the gate. Sculptures in the courtyard include a nearby statue of a thin horse, and a statue of a face-wrinkled Ma Zhiyuan looking far into the distance.
The courtyard is big with three rooms on each side, all of which are furnished. In the study, on the desk are books of yuanqu (verse popular in the Yuan Dynasty), old paintings, copies of calligraphy, a damaged guqin (Chinese zither) and a dry oil lamp, providing visitors with a nostalgic atmosphere. Nearby Ma's residence is an old three-level stone watchtower immersed among the trees.
According to legend, the tower built in the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234) was a military fort. Villagers said there was an attic at its top but wore away as time went by. In the village, there are ruins called Dazhai (“big stockade”) or Luonanpo (“a slope of calamity”), which was served as a prison in ancient times. According to legend, after the Song Dynasty was defeated by the Jin Dynasty, Song emperors Huizong and Qinzong were imprisoned here, on the way to be under escort to Jin's capital.
Jingxi Ancient Trail, a highlight of Jiuyuan village, once connected Beijing with the far north in ancient times. For hundreds of years, large amounts of coal and grain were transported to Beijing along the trail and one now can find deep or shallow holes on slabstone, considered hoof prints made by trade caravans. One can see ancient stelas and statues along the trail and peaks rising one after another, which once witnessed societal changes.
After visiting the ruins, one should try a taste of the village's food. Secretary of Jiuyuan Village's Committee of the Communist Party of China Ge Shuxiang said, “I'm sure our village is one of the best places in Beijing to enjoy sights and foods.” Jiuyuan Village is also famous for its agricultural products including pickles, cherries, apricots and pears.
A strong aroma rises after opening the lid of a ceramic jar containing Jiuyuan pickles. Ingredients of pickles include cowpea, chili, gourd, chayote, honey dew, Jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, cucumber, garlic and ginger, which are similar to other pickles. Every savoury bite of these pickles is crisp, sweet, and moderately salty.
Ge said, “The ingredients of the pickles are vegetables grown by our villagers. We use spring water and manure to water and fertilise them. Autumn is the best season for pickling vegetables. We add salts, garlic, sugars and liqueur to season the pickles. Our pickles are organic food without any preservatives.”
Jiuyuan Village is a famous fruit area due to its ecological environment. The village focuses on developing agritourism and fruit and vegetable picking. There are orchards of pears, cherries and apricots, covering a total area of more than 15 hectares in the village. Villagers benefit from growing fruits with an annual per capita income already exceeding 10,000 yuan.
“Our cherries, apricots and pears are big and sweet because we use spring water on them. The period of picking lasts from the beginning of April to autumn. In August and September, do try our jingbai pear which is selected for state banquets,” said Ge.
Jiuyuan Village featuring ancient trails, historic ruins, and traditional Chinese residences display a splendorous community. Come and visit the village and don't miss tasty jingbai pears in August and September.