Ji­uyuan, a Pic­turesque Vil­lage

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Wang Wei, pol­ished by Mark Zuiderveld, pho­tos by Zhou Mingx­ing

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.

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