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Classical Huizhou-style residences restored

2014-06-10 10:46 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan
The Pavilion of Martial Arts Scholars in Wendao Garden

The Pavilion of Martial Arts Scholars in Wendao Garden

As prime examples of classical Huizhou-style architecture, houses with grey roofs, white walls, and stone or wooden door lintels carved with various images were a common sight in Anhui province years ago.

However, these properties, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list, are less common today as many have been demolished during China's urbanization drive.

But now people can appreciate the beauty of Huizhou-style architecture at Wendao Garden in Baoshan district, as the owners of the garden have relocated dozens of Huizhou-style houses and reconstructed them in this 70-hectare landscape.

Open to the public since October, 15 Huizhou-style houses have been relocated to the garden, all of which are more than 100 years old.

"There will be a total of 70 houses here by the end of this year," Chen Lin, a tour guide at the garden, said.

Located by a small lake, the Pavilion of Martial Arts Scholars is the most eye-catching building in the garden. Originally built in the 19th century, the two-story Huizhou-style house was once the private apartment of a military officer in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

A large proportion of the house is made of wood. "Its pillars were made of phoebe bournei, and its beams made of camphorwood," Chen said. To rebuild the house, construction workers spent 18 months disassembling all the planks and numbering them, before reassembling them in the garden.

At the front of the building there is a row of wooden benches named meirenkao (literally "beauty's benches"), which is a typical characteristic of Huizhou-style architecture.

In ancient times, Chinese women were not allowed to go out, except for at festival time. Therefore, women would like to sit on the benches to see what was happening outside. "That's why the benches are called 'beauty's benches,'" Chen said.

Now the building is used as a painting and calligraphy studio, with the works of five local artists on display.

Apart from its efforts to preserve examples of old architecture, the garden is also known for its large collection of various rare stones from home and overseas.

Only a few steps away from the Huizhou-style houses, the 2,700-square-meter Precious Stone Gallery attracts lots of visitors, especially stone enthusiasts, with its collection of more than 1,000 valuable stones, jades and fossils.

Displayed in the center of the exhibition hall is a faux banquet made from colorful rare stones including ventifacts and Xinjiang Gobi jades. The Manchu-Han Imperial Feast (a massive dinner consisting of Manchu and Han foods) is made up of 108 "dishes" such as boiled hairy crab, roasted beefsteak and steamed buns.

"Instead of processing the stones into the shapes of food, we picked natural stones that look like food and arranged them into a 'banquet' with imagination," Zhou Fagen, a staff member at the gallery, told the Global Times. He added that the exhibit costs the owners of the garden more than 1 million yuan ($162,287) to put together.

In one corner of the gallery is a clutch of 14 fossilized dinosaur eggs covered with many coins.

"It's hard to find a fossil with so many dinosaur eggs in the same nest," another staffer Zhang Xiaohua said to the Global Times.

Last May, Wu Bangguo, former chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, visited the garden and touched the dinosaur eggs.

"From then on, people tend to put a coin on the fossil and then make a wish," Zhang added.

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