Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dang Village (党家村)

党家村 is a 600 year old village about 10 kilometers north of Hancheng. And was the real reason why I took the three hour bus ride from Xian. When I arrived at the top of the sloping road leading down to the village, and saw it for the first time, the view took my breath away. It was really picture-perfect, a hundred years old village frozen in time.

It is becoming famous because of its near prefect preservation of Ming and Qing dynasty houses. Particularly those 四合院. I have seen them before, in Beijing, Xian, and other places. But usually just individual ones. And they were usually dilapidated, with the courtyard stuffed with ugly additions. Or so touched up that they looked more like models. Never before so many together, in such good conditions.

These courtyards reminds you of the movie 大紅燈籠高高掛, don't they? Well, they should, because they are really the same type of houses, quite common in northern China a hundred years ago.

In fact, people are still living in them. Behind those curtains dwell farmers who continue to work the fields surrounding the village. They grow mainly pepper corn, corn and millet, A farmer’s life in China is a hard life. Food prices are artificially low, to keep the city folks contended. So the back-breaking work does not always bring many happy returns. I saw a woman carrying a hoe, several women picking something from trees on a hillside just outside the village, a woman feeding sheep, a woman carrying coal, ... The village is a pleasant diversion for city dwellers and curiosity for history buffs like me - who would like it to remain that way as long as can be. But I imagine it must be very different from their point of view.


Anonymous said...

If you tell me the movie, 大紅燈籠高高掛, was actually taken in Dang Village, I would believe it. It is exactly as I have remembered the scenes in the movie. So vivid that makes you think the story was real too.
Thank you for bringing our eyes there.

StephenC said...

You are welcome.

Apparently such courtyard houses were quite common in northern China up to a hundred years ago. But they don't seem to be building them anymore.

I have seem them before, mainly in Beijing and Xian. But never in such large numbers, and such seemingly "original" conditions.