After dropping off our ‘stuff’ in the hotel, we ventured back out onto the streets of Jianshui. It was already 15.30, so it was time to get going again to explore.
The street near the hotel was busy with shoppers… but not one was a westerner. Jianshui is still not on many tourist itineraries.
On one of the side streets we came across a young man painting a sign above a new gallery.
He happily acknowledged us before going back to his work.
We’d checked out the town map and walked with a plan in mind… to find the Zhu Gardens and Mansion. Further along, in Hanlin Street, we found the main entrance gate.
The ornate gate heralded what was to come as we entered this place sometimes referred to as the ‘Grand View Garden’. All of the buildings have saddle-shaped roofs and elaborately painted crossbeams and ceilings.
The layout of the complex is based on a fairly simple grid pattern.
Within this layout there are 42 Tianjing (courtyards) and 214 pavilions and towers… lots to see! The whole complex covers many hectares and we just wandered between courtyards and rooms taking photos as we went. So, over the next few musing posts, you can join us as the photos lead us through this maze of buildings, a peep into China’s past in the late 1800s early 1900s.
The roofs were covered in the traditional Chinese glazed tubular tiles. These are made of clay in a wooden tube-shaped mould. Each pipe is then cut into halves along their length, producing two semicircular tubular tiles. These are overlapped in lines down the roof. When these tiles are used on an eave edge, circular ends are often added, these usually moulded with the pattern of dragon.
There are many ornately carved and painted wood panels.
The garden’s penjing, or bonsai, collection is scattered throughout the various courtyards. Although best known in the west as a Japanese art form, this form of training and miniaturisation of plants in a pot originated in China.
These lovely bonsai appear to be very old. They have been created to mimic the shape and style of the mature, full-size trees. Cultivation techniques such as pruning, root reduction, and grafting are used over a long period of time to produce this effect.
A circular opening, known as a ‘moon gate’, lead us into the next courtyard.
We had entered the courtyard of the Embroidery Tower, the only two story building in the residence. Here, in former days, female members of the Zhu family enjoyed recreational activities including reading and embroidery. It was later used as a ‘home school’ for the Zhu children.
A larger Bonsai dominated this courtyard. Its stone label, in three languages, told us that this was a Bougainvillea spectabilis. In flower it would indeed be spectacular.
Further along, we came to the doorway of one of the rooms in the residence, the doorway again flanked by Bonsai. A sign in the complex explained that the main residence is typical of Jianshui architecture of the time: “three bedrooms with six side rooms, three living rooms with three side rooms attached in the rear, as well as one major courtyard and four attached small courtyards.”
A peep inside the room… anyone for a game of cards?
Yellow chrysanthemums grew beside another ornate door way.
The chrysanthemums had been heavily pruned and trained.
The central shoot of the plant had been nipped out and the resulting side shoots had been trained to the outside edge of the pot and then allowed to grow upwards. Very spidery!
Inside this ‘room’, in fact a linking passageway, were a couple of chairs but, although we could have done with a bit of a rest by then, they did not look at all comfortable!
I’ll return with more photos of the Zhu Gardens and Mansion in my next post.
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