Her­itage in the beams of orig­i­nal dwellings

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By ZHULIXIN in Huang­shan, An­hui prov­ince

Also known as Huizhou pre­fec­ture, Huang­shan is to­day widely as­so­ci­ated with be­ing the home of the pic­turesque Huang­shan Moun­tain, or Yel­lowMoun­tain.

How­ever, many peo­ple are not aware that the city is also renowned for its nu­mer­ous re­main­ing an­cient build­ings, which are dis­tinc­tive and re­sem­ble an­cient Huizhou-style build­ings.

These houses are best known for the carv­ings on their com­po­nents, be it wood, stone or brick.

“The fur­ni­ture made by the lo­cal crafts­men of Huang­shan have al­ways been fa­mous in the coun­try,” said ChenWenyuan, an ex­pert from the Huang­shan-based An­hui Re­search Cen­ter of In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tureHer­itage.

In fact, the an­cient ar­chi­tec­ture in Huang­shan’s old vil­lages is so well­p­re­served that one may feel that he or she has trav­eled back in time when strolling through them.

Many of these an­cient build­ings were built by a group of suc­cess­ful busi­ness­men called the Huizhou mer­chants, who made their for­tune by trad­ing tea and salt in the coun­try. It is be­lieved that these mer­chants ac­counted for al­most half of China’s wealth be­tween the late Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644) and the early Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911).

Be­com­ing a busi­ness­man was a com­mon choice in Huizhou dur­ing those times— more than 70 per­cent of lo­cal male res­i­dents had their own busi­nesses— as the moun­tain­ous re­gion had very few farm­lands. Fur­ther­more, it was one of the coun­try’s most im­por­tant trans­porta­tion hubs, as it con­nected the prov­inces of An­hui, Zhe­jiang and Jiangxi.

Chi­nese peo­ple are known for their af­fec­tions to­ward their birth­places and the Huizhou mer­chants were no dif­fer­ent. Many of them started con­struct­ing build­ings in their home­towns and these struc­tures would be seen as a sym­bol of pride. The mer­chants took great care in en­sur­ing that these build­ings bore ex­quis­ite crafts­man­ship in the form of brick carv­ings at the en­trances, stone carv­ings at var­i­ous win­dows and wood carv­ings on the door frames.

The carv­ings seen in Huizhou in­clude a wide range of im­agery, in­clud­ing birds and flow­ers, aus­pi­cious beasts such as dragons or lions, char­ac­ters from folk­lore and scenes of na­ture, as well as daily ac­tiv­i­ties such as farm­ing and read­ing.

These works were the most time­con­sum­ing part of build­ing a Huizhou-style build­ing. The con­struc­tion of an an­ces­tral tem­ple of­ten took gen­er­a­tions to com­plete. To­day, these three types of carv­ings have been clas­si­fied as a na­tional in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage.

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