MU­SEUM OF AN­CIENT SCHOL­ARS

Xi­un­ing was the home of many top stu­dents dur­ing im­pe­rial times

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By XU LIN xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

When vis­it­ing Huang­shan Moun­tain in Huang­shan city, An­hui prov­ince, take a side trip to the city’s Xi­un­ing county, where you can en­joy tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, green moun­tains and au­then­tic An­hui cui­sine.

An at­trac­tion in the county, which is 18 km from down­town Huang­shan, is the Mu­seum of the Num­ber One Schol­ars. It chron­i­cles the his­tory of the im­pe­rial ex­am­i­na­tion sys­tem in an­cient China and ex­hibits an­tiques such as the scholar’s red robe and hat, in­scribed boards and orig­i­nal ex­am­i­na­tion ques­tions and an­swers.

Xi­un­ing is known as the home­town of Num­ber One Schol­ars. From 1217 to 1880, there were as many as 19 Num­ber One Schol­ars (for both lib­eral arts and mar­tial arts) in the county.

After tour­ing the mu­seum, I went to try the county’s fa­mous dishes and drinks such as salted pork and gluti­nous rice wine that were shown in A Bi­te­ofChina, the popular doc­u­men­tary se­ries about Chi­nese cuisines.

Like many oth­ers, I was sur­prised when I heard about the dish called fried hairy tofu. The chefs put freshly made tofu on bam­boo chips for fer­men­ta­tion for three to five days, un­til white fine hairs grow on them. The hair would be gone when the chefs fry the tofu and scram­ble them with other in­gre­di­ents.

The other un­usual dish is the smelly man­darin fish, which smells aw­ful but tastes good, just like smelly tofu. The cooks make the man­darin fish into kip­per by soaking it in light salt brine un­der the room tem­per­a­ture for about a week.

The next day, I climbed Huang­shan city’s other moun­tain Qiyun Moun­tain, which is about 74 kilo­me­ters from Huang­shan Moun­tain. The two moun­tains have been equally fa­mous since an­cient times.

Qiyun is one of the top four Tao­ism moun­tains in China, and Qiyun lit­er­ally means it’s as high as the clouds. It has at­tracted many Tao­ism prac­ti­tion­ers through­out his­tory such as Zhang San­feng in Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644).

Many well-known an­cient schol­ars and of­fi­cials such as painter and poet Tang Yin (1470-1523) vis­ited the moun­tain and wrote cal­lig­ra­phy for it, which were carved on the cliffs or on mon­u­ments inside the caves.

Among more than 1,500 carv­ings, only 538 of them have sur­vived. When I ar­rived at the Ele­phant’s Nose Rock, I saw dozens of carv­ings on the cliffs around me in dif­fer­ent styles of cal­ligra­phies from dif­fer­ent dy­nas­ties.

On the top of the moun­tain, I looked down to see a green field in the shape of eight gi­ant di­a­grams at the foot. It was ac­tu­ally a sun­flower field. When the flow­ers were in full blos­som in Au­gust, tourists came to take pho­tos and walk amid the flow­ers.

My guide told me that the seven vil­lages that are scat­tered at the foot of the moun­tain are like the seven stars of the Charles’s Wain. The Hengjiang River that runs along the foot of the moun­tain is in the shape of let­ter “S”, and to­gether with the two banks, com­prise a nat­u­ral di­a­gram of tai chi. For those vis­it­ing He­fei, the cap­i­tal of An­hui prov­ince, one can go to the city’s Chaohu dis­trict to en­joy the coun­try­side and the hot spring. Chaohu is more than a five-hour drive from Xi­un­ing county and is known as the cap­i­tal of an­cient hot springs due to the Ban­tang Hot Spring dis­cov­ered as early as the Qin Dy­nasty (221-206 BC). In the day­time, you can ride a bi­cy­cle on a 15 km route in the Tulip High­land Scenic Area to see flow­ers. At night, you can re­lax in the an­cient spring after sight­see­ing.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The Mu­seum of the Num­ber One Schol­ars tells the his­tory of the im­pe­rial ex­am­i­na­tion sys­tem in an­cient China.

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