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A watertown low in profile, high in aesthetics

来源: 加拿大共生国际传媒  日期:2017-10-18 00:05:34  点击:10003  属于:Travel
The 400-year-old Baijian Lou, literally meaning “pavilion of 100 rooms,” is said to have been built by a high-ranking Ming Dynasty official for his servants.(Photo/Shanghai Daily)

The 400-year-old Baijian Lou, literally meaning "pavilion of 100 rooms," is said to have been built by a high-ranking Ming Dynasty official for his servants.(Photo/Shanghai Daily)

Of all the celebrated ancient watertowns of China, Nanxun in the city of Huzhou, Zhejiang Province, may not rank high in familiarity, but its low profile doesn't diminish its special nature.

The history of the town can be traced back to the Neolithic Age, and its current layout and construction have been largely preserved since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Four rivers ― the Nanshi, Dongshi, Xishi and Baoshan ― formed the shape of cross that provides the framework of the entire ancient town. Row upon row of stores, restaurants and residences lie neatly along both sides of the rivers.

Compared with other ancient watertowns, such as Wuzhen and Xitang, both in Zhejiang, Nanxun seems less commercial and less bustling. It is known nowadays as "the town of poets and culture" because its long history has nurtured many scholars and artists.

One such luminary was Zhang Shiming (1871-1927), a founding member and sponsor of the Xiling Society of Seal Arts, one of the most significant institutions in Chinese cultural history. The society was established in 1904 in Hangzhou, the provincial capital.

Yide Hall, the former residence of Zhang, is located on a riverbank on Nanxi Street. Zhang named the residence in honor of his mother, Madam Gui. It took seven years to complete construction.

Zhang's grandfather, Zhang Songxian (1817-92), was the wealthiest resident of Nanxun. Small wonder that his family could build such a grand residence, which combined both Chinese and Western styles of construction.

Zhang Shiming lived in the mansion for only a few years before he moved to Shanghai with his wife and children. Madam Gui lived there until she died in 1922. Since then, the residence has remained empty, except for once a year, on the Qingming Festival (tomb-sweeping day), when the family reunites there to honor the ancestors.

After 1949, the residence became a base of the army. In 1975, it was sold to the Shanghai Tea Company as a storehouse.

In 1992, the local government bought the residence for 2.1 million yuan (US$306,077) and restored the structure to its original look. Since then, it became a landmark of the ancient town.

The mansion comprises some 244 rooms. Its interior is crafted with carved beams and painted rafters, especially in the area around the master bedroom.

At one time, it held Zhang's collection of stone tablets carved with paintings and calligraphy, but most of them were lost during World War II.

The loss, however, didn't reduce the charm of the residence. Its stained glass, outdoor rockeries and other treasures make it a unique destination.