The last stop of the new year trip is the courtyard of Family Chou (周家大院) in Yongzhou, Hunan. It is said that descendants of the famous philosopher Chou Tun-i (周敦頤) of the Song Dynasty live here. The courtyard was built in the late Qing Dynasty — although after hundreds of years, you can still imagine the prosperity of the family at that time. Now, while the houses were still there as if they were hundreds of years ago, it seemed to be much quiet than it could be back to that time, with the exception of the time when you can see kids chasing each other on the old granite road.
It’s a winter morning when we visited Mt. Jiuyi in South Hunan. Rolling hills were hidden in the morning mist, as if they were not awake yet, while a flock of ducks quacked and followed the master all the way down to the field, hoping that they can get a first bite of the breakfast. What an interesting scene! According to Records of the Grand Historian (《史記》), Mt. Jiuyi is the burial place of Emperor Shun (舜帝), one of the “Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors” (三皇五帝) in ancient China. Many people may also learn about Mt. Jiuyi through one of Mao Zedong’s poems, which starts with Emperor Shun’s legendary stories:
七律 • 答友人 (毛澤東)
Different from the Western arts, which emphasize on delivering a picture of the reality, Chinese arts are more likely to pass a mood. When I took this picture, I didn’t feel like I was taking a picture of lotus — It simply reminded me a poem by the poet Shangyin Li (李商隱) from Tang Dynasty, and I sensed what he might have felt thousands of years ago: a combination of the pleasure to see the beautiful scenes and a little bit sadness of missing friends who were thousands of miles away.
宿駱氏亭寄懷崔雍崔袞 （唐 · 李商隱）
As the capital of a province, Changsha is among one of a few cities which enjoy abundant tourist resources — it’s probably the only one which has a mountain (山), a river (水) and an island (洲) in the city (城) at the same time. With the mountain refers to Mt. Yuelu (嶽麓山) and the river refers to River Xiang (湘江)， “island” here refers to the Orange Continent Head (橘子洲), which lies in River Xiang. The Orange Continent Head is known by Chinese people pretty much because of the poem “Chin Yuan Chun, Changsha” (《沁園春.長沙》) from Mao Zedong. Nowadays, the Orange Continent Head has become a city park where several pavilions and terraces have been restored or refurbished. Because of the popularity of a recent reality TV show “Where are we going? Dad”, when we are there in a weekend, almost all the visitors we see are families with young kids…So maybe this is the “positive energy” brought up by the media?
A new year visit to Yuanjiang, a small city sitting on the tip of south Lake Dongting (洞庭湖). Lake Dongting is among the largest lakes in China. With Lake Poyang (鄱陽湖), Lake Tai (太湖) and Lake Hongze (洪澤湖), they are called the four largest freshwater lakes in China. Interestingly, Lake Dongting is also the natural border of two provinces in China: Hunan and Hubei, with “Hunan” means “south of the Lake” while “Hubei” means “north of the Lake”. As a city sitting so close to Lake Dongting, Yuanjiang enjoys really rich natural resources and scenes, such as the large bulrush marsh. It’s almost the sunset time when we came to the marsh. Though we were told that winter is not the best season to visit the marsh and lake, it’s still quite amazing to see the bulrush swaying gentlely in the dusk.
Traditional Chinese architecture has a host of different elements which could be seen as its “symbols” and horsehead wall is definitely one of them. In Chinese, horsehead wall is called “馬頭牆”, which means that the shape of the wall is similar to the head of horses. Originated from Anhui Province and therefore naturally be an indispensable signature of Hui-styled architecture, nowadays, horsehead walls could be found in a lot of old-fashioned houses in South China, especially in villages along both sides of the Yangtze River.