Put on a Chinese Long Gown and Go to Anren Ancient Town
Written by Yang Bo
The mansion in the Republic of China specifically refers to the residence of the person of high social status. In the ancient towns lying on the Western Sichuan plains, it was a normal thing to find out several Republic style mansions. There were some mansions in Yuelai town of Dayi County and Xinchang town. However, there were 27 mansions in the Anren town, which had once reached 56 for most in the history. This quiet Anren town once preserved one more mansion than the capital city of Nanjing in the whole period of Republic China. Thus, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Anren town is a place of mansions.
Such characteristics of Anren ancient town are closely related to the Liu family who migrated to Sichuan from Huizhou, Anhui Province in the early days of the Qing Dynasty. Liu family rose up in the chaos of the early Republic of China, whose the most influential figures include Liu Xiang, the XXI Corps commander of the National Revolutionary Army, and Liu Wenhui, the XXIV Corps commander of the National Revolutionary Army, and the “Squire” Liu Wencai. Their fame and fortune led to the creation of the mansion group in Anren Town.
The 27 existing mansions of the Republic in Anren ancient town are scattered around the town separately. The “Old Residence” refers to today’s Liu’s manor museum and is one of the core mansions, including Liu’s ancestral home, the mansion of Liu Wencai, and the mansion of Liu Wencheng and Liu Wenzhao; The “new Residence” refers to Liu Wenhui’s residence built by Liu Wencai in those days; and there was another Liu Xiang’s residence which has not been open to public yet.
Liu Wenhui’s mansion was established in 1942, with an area of 24,822 square meters and a building area of 8,406 square meters. The mansion is made up of two independent three-hall courtyards with two equal areas sitting on south and north. The gate of the mansion has the European Gothic style. And the plaque above the middle gate is written in Chinese and Tibetan. The Chinese version writes “Improve one’s virtue and refine one’s achievement” while the Tibetan version means “Buddha dharma lives forever”. A large garden is used as a transition between the gate and the lobby, and a tennis court is set up in the gardens. The high wall and large courtyards in the Liu Wenhui’s mansion has a practical anti-theft function. The columns of the corner of the courtyard wall adopts the complicated brick-laying process, the top of which is carved with a crane, which implies “longevity and prosperity for generations”.
In the Anren Town, another residence centralized region, is what locals proudly referred as the “residence street” -- the Shuren Street and Yumin Street. When you walk on the street full of mansions, the two sides of the rocky roads are paved with the wooden doors familiar in the ancient town of Sichuan, and when you occasionally pass through the black-painted gates, you cannot see the mansions. In fact, there are 8 invisible mansions on this street. The residences keep a low profile, and the tall towers are hidden behind the black paint gates and the narrow channels. At the end of Yumin Street, there is a three-story western-style building, through which the street passes the City-gate. This nominal “Tongqing Tea House” is called “Paoge Tower” by the local people. In that year, based on the local reactionary gangs, Liu Wencai established the “Public Welfare Concorde Society” for the gangs in Anren Town, and the headquarters was set up in the “Tongqing Tea House” which rapidly developed to more than 360 subbranches in the western Sichuan area, southern Sichuan and Xikang area. The so-called “100,000 brothers, 10,000 guns” was a force that the Nationalist Government did not dare to urinate.
Among the numerous mansions in Anren Town, not all of the mansions were under the direct management of GMT Rulling area and there were also several mansions inclined towards the revolution. For instance, the mansion of Li Yuzi was a former headquarters of the Underground Chuankang branch of CPC. On the eve of liberation, there were over 30 members of the Underground CPC walking inside and out of the wicket. A room without a window at the corner of the side yard was the conference room and the writing room at that time. On the eve of Chengdu’ Liberation, they hurried to print dozens of red flags in the mansion of Li Yuzi, which was the real version of “embroidering red flags”.
For the sake of safety, the courtyard wall of Li Yuzi’s mansion was provided with a plurality of loopholes, and the deep ditches were dug out. The exterior wall of the mansion and the top of the gable wall all used the double-faced plastering style of “eagle does not fall” as was commonly seen in the western part of Sichuan. Wile this kind of simple shape was beneficial for draining water, it also can prevent “warped-up” which mean robbers climbed onto the mansion with a stick or walk on the wall. The whole mansion seems like a castle.
Because of such a wealth of mansions in Anren town, traces of the Republic of China are seen everywhere. The elegant boutiques appealed to the visitors with the hustling and bustling voices. Every now and then in the street, there was a special tour showing the atmosphere of the Republic of China. The quiet old street was again busy while the tourists were watching them. The cruise crowds included graceful girls wearing long gowns, an elegant lady in a rickshaw. They made their way through the old street and came to the Bailemen Square of Anren town,performing a wonderful Song&Dance show in a Republic style. The sound of the tram suddenly drew people back to the period of the Republic of China, and when I took the tram, I had a different angle of view. Putting on a Chinese long gown to the Anren ancient Town has become Anren’s new card.
Highlight one: The mansion of Liu Yuanxuan
In the Shuren street of Anren ancient town, the eight mansions are hidden invisibly, among which the mansions of Liu Yuanhu, Liu Yuanxuɑn, Chen Yuesheng are the grandest and exquisite. These mansions often have three or four halls inside the yard, which are separate from each other and transverse side by side. There are also walls between each mansion, convenient for fire prevention and theft.
There are different kinds of trees in the courtyard of the three mansions mentioned above. The hazel tree fruit is large and the fruits are numerous. Besides, the “Youzi” in Chinese has a homophone of “have child", “pray for a child”, connoting more sons and more blessings. The osmanthus fragrans sound “Jingui” in Chinese, means abundant wealth or many children in the family, which is shown more evidently. A tree of “King of osmanthus fragrans” in Liu Yuanxuɑn’s mansion has lived nearly one hundred years. and the whole Shuren street was full of sweet-scented aroma on Mid-Autumn festival.
The design of these mansions in the Anren Town is the embodiment of masters’ temperament and accomplishments. Liu Yuanxuɑn’s mansion contains many interesting designs. Push he black paint gate at No. 48 in Shuren Street and stand in front of the door, it shows a simple arc arch. Through the arch of the gate to see the mansiob’s gate, the door in the baroque style reveals only the top part, and overlaps with the arch, which resembles the “General’s helmet” in ancient China. Liu Yuanxuan was Liu Wenyuan’s firstborn son, and the niece of Liu Wenhui, who was the last XXIV Corps commander. He explained the design as “open the door to meet the general in one step” with a view to show that he was approachable.
Besides, in terms of the decoration of Liu Yuanxuɑn’s mansion, which was built and transformed a club in an original flavor, has maintained its original style to the greatest extent. The big red peony on the arched door is meant to be “rich and expensive”. The door, window, etc., are carved a pattern and symbol of unique meaning, or its harmonic tone is taken, such as fish (Yu), bat (Fu), deer (Lu); or was given a special meaning, such as Four traditional arts (Wenchang), grapes and pomegranate (more sons), vegetable and fruit (bumper harvest), etc. Some ridges decorations are some lucky patterns like traditional bat, auspicious clouds, flowers, etc., which are designed to “fire”.
Liu Yuanxuɑn’s mansion is now an old film museum with a large number of projection machines, film copies, professional books, magazines, posters and letters. Among them, the treasure or the invaluable asset of the whole town is the Krupp projector made in Germany to show film for Empress Dowager Cixi.
Highlight two: Anren Middle School
In 1941, Liu Wencai contributed to the construction of the then Sichuan Province’s best middle school -- Private Wencai Middle School. The campus has 46 school buildings, including grand and complete 24 classrooms, offices, libraries and music rooms. When the local gentry planned the school, thanks to his plentiful money, all the gentry threw Liu Wencai as the initiator of the new school. At that time, Wencai Middle School was built with the scale of a university. The school’s designer was the famous architect who had ever built Huaxiba Dam and Sangyuan Airport. Therefore, the traditional architectural style of the middle schools in Anren reveals the essence of western architectural aesthetics.
Anren middle school’s area at that time exceeded 100,000 mu (a unit of area, = 060667 hectares), and costed 350 million francs, worth more than $ 2 million. The 40 old buildings formed a perfect group of buildings. It was a Chinese-style middle school with the largest scale in Sichuan and was put into use for the first time.
Today, the campus also infiltrated an atmosphere of learning ranging hundred years. Over 30 buildings still remain among the 40 buildings a century ago, and the whole school pattern has not changed. The grand gate, the auditorium capable of 1000 persons both have the Chinese and Western styles. The memorial tower of Anren Middle School with Chinese traditional architectural style has become the landmark of ancient town. Although the tower clock is missing, the monument in the tower still records the past history. Four cerical characters “Ren Zhe An Ren” above the Bell Tower also tell the diatant memories. The school motto “the benevolent is satisfied with the benevolence and enjoys giving people charity” is not only the origin of the name of Anren town, but also is the law of the conduction.
Highlight three: Customs Experience Area of the Republic China
Anren’s experience area of the Republic of China includes the first-phase and the second-phase constructions. Among them, first-phase buildings are composed of Shuren Street, Yumin Street and Hongxing Street. On the old street, there are a total of 14 mansion and residences with distinctive features; The buildings constructed during the Republic of China are Anren Middle School, Anren theater, Paoge Tower, the Monument of Wanchengyan Lake, Tongqing Restaurant, etc. Together they form a vivid painting of the ancient town in a style of the Republic of China.
The second phase is a new project, adjacent to the first phase project and the tourist center. In the second phase, the architectural features and buildings in the period of the Republic of China were reconstructed with the organic integration of various types of architecture, such as Shanghai-style Architecture, Lane Architecture, Courtyard quadrangle and Dwellings in Western Sichuan. At present, the numismatic museum opens the door to welcome guests. There are seven thematic halls in the museum which are displayed with Sichuan coins, bills and notes of heroes in the anti-Japanese war, bank cards, worldwide coins and other cherishing cultural relics. The number of the relics and the involvement is unprecedented.
Gao Mingxuan, the owner of the mansion of the Mingxuan Libraryis once served as the director of the Colonel Office of Leimaping Village Army’s Headquarters in Sichuan Province. The mansion was built in 1946, and now is a book0themed little inn that has two courtyards, ten rooms of different characteristics. Among the thousands of books, however old or new, you can choose to read one or buy one or take a small chapbook in the afternoon to spend an quiet afternoon with a cup of tea. The Demen Renli Hotel also lies in the second phase project which appears to travel through time from the beginning. The wooden stairs are reflected in the figure of the Chinese long gowns while the carved balcony mottles as time goes by. A gramophone makes the sound of Babbling. In the old days of the Republic of Anren, you can listen to the echos from the depths of history accompanied by the whistling pines. You are certain to find that Anren ancient town is an ideal place for meditation and recreation.
You can self-drive on the Highway from Chengdu, through Wenjiang, Chongzhou to the exit of Anren stop. Then, you need to drive forward about 13 km to Anrenalong the connecting line;
At the Chengdu Chadianzi Passenger Station, the buses bound for the Anren ancient town leaves every half an hour;
Tourists can sign up for one-day scenic tour at stores of the Sichuan China Youth Travel Service Agency.
Location: 8.5 km west to the Dayi County
Opening time: all day
Entrance ticket price: It is free in most of the mansions and museum within the town.
Labels: National AAAA Tourist Attraction, a famous historical and cultural town in China, Chinese Museum Town.