The Manor of Crime: to Restore the Truth of History
The name of Liu Wencai, a well-known and tyrannical rural rich in Sichuan Province, was engraved in the memory of Chinese about sixty years ago for he was regarded as one of the most heinous bully in the era of class struggles. Rent Collection Courtyard, the grand exhibition of clay sculptures crying out the untold suffering and misery of peasants in old Chinese countryside, also was widely known to people and reminded them the hardship of class struggles. As the background of Rent Collection Courtyard and also the most complete existing manor of landlord in China, Liu’s Manor is a combination of luxurious building style of feudal aristocracy, amenity-oriented Chinese architecture style and western religious one.
In 1960s, due to the political propaganda, the manor has been preserved intact and becomes a key national heritage conservation unit now. Many people flow to the manor to experience its grandeur, which causes the shortage of commentators there; therefore, some commentators put up a loudspeaker to interpret the history of the manor. At the time, the poor transportation from Chengdu to Anren required people almost half a day to arrive at the manor, so people always waited in a long line even at twilight and the manager of pavilion had to install bulbs in it and delay the closed time.
Liu Wen-Tsai ranked the fifth in his family and gained fortune after the rise to power of his sixth brother, Liu Wenhui. After his younger brother’s capturing of the military power, Liu began to help him amass military expenditure and then he used levying heavy taxation and raising land rent pay as a way of making money and opened a golden age of Liu Family. In 1931, in the famous “Two Liu’s War” broke out, ending up with Liu Wenhui’s defeat and fleeing to Ya’an. Liu Wen-Tsai sent more than 4500 cases of treasure and more than 8000,000 silvers to his hometown, Anren and expanded his residence forming the large scale we see today. The previous Liu’s Manor was an irregular courtyard complex formed by several yards, but now it expanded into a compound of foreyard, Pleasure Palace, study, gardens and backyard. The foreyard was a two-yard courtyard; the second yard was divided into chambers, storehouse and family hall for worshipping the Buddha; the Pleasure Palace was an open plan Garden Court with the study behind it; the backyard was behind the study with rooms for labors, kitchens, opium storage room.
Represented by Liu’s Manor, the design details of all masons in Anren contain the auspicious cultural connotations in Chinese custom. Rambling in Liu’s Manor, you can see many auspicious symbols: peony represents for wealth and rank; crane for longevity; bat and deer for good fortune and prosperity (for they share the same sound in Chinese); books on the art of war and swords for being adept with both the pen and the sword; as well as cabbage-shaped clay dangling on the pillars and eaves. You can know the squire society in the Republic of China era and picture the vivid life of the squires.
Besides, the household decoration in Liu’s Manor is also very unique. All Tianwang chairs are made from red sanders and beset with jewelry and corals, which are said to be possessed by Hong Xiuquan, the king of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. In the chamber of Liu Wencai, the gilded bed with carved golden dragon in its pillars, occupies nine square meters, which looks like a golden palace in the distance. When you go into the southern yard where is often visited by Liu, you can see a rectangular patio right behind the black wooden door, simple and unsophisticated, as if it were a frontier. On the one side of the hall parks a paint-chipped volt car, rickshaws and sedan chairs, which make people lost in the passing time.
The ornamental style of the manor has reached the peak of perfection of Sichuan domestic architecture. For example, the clay sculptures, a traditional ornamental craftsmanship from the South of China, use lime as the main raw material and carve patterns in the round or relief on the walls, roofs and doors. It prevailed in the Ming and Qing Dynasty, which can be seen in ancestral halls, temples, the gate of maison and the houses built in the Republic era in Sichuan. It boasts delicate craftsmanship, rich colors, wide range of topics and strong stereo dimension.
There is a pool for opium storage in the manor, which was propagated as a water dungeon by the government because besides assuming the office of official salt and tax and renting lands to peasants, Liu also trafficked in opium to make fortune. Opium is easy to be dry so that he built a pool to moisten it and assure its quality. In China’s Cultural Revolution period, under the influence of the far-left ideas, it was rebuilt as a water dungeon; but now, it has been put back to what it used to be, just like a cellar for vegetable storage.
Overall, Liu’s Manor has witnessed the vicissitudes of our society and represents the modern architecture craftsmanship and traditional folk custom of Western Sichuan. It is a solid evidence of the regional residential buildings, providing us a viewpoint to observe the development of China’s modern society.
Focus 1: the exhibition of Rent Collection Courtyard
The clay group sculpture, Rent Collection Courtyard, was collectively created by art designers in the manor, folk artists and students and teachers from the sculpture department of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 1965, which contains 114 life-size figures to present the whole process of rent collection. Artistically, the group collection is the archetype of the combination of Chinese traditional folk clay sculpture techniques and modern ones; however, historically, it is a twist of the truth for the sake of art, misleading people’s understanding of Liu Wencai and his time.
The artists created the battlefield of the brutal landlord and exploited peasants in the gallery where Liu collected rent, which developed in the plot of “Peasants—Forced to Pay the Rent”, “Checking the Grain and Exploiting Peasants”, “Cursing and Whipping Peasants for the Full Rent” and “Emancipation and Struggles of Peasants”. In the 118-meter-long gallery, each figure, 94 positive characters and 20 negative ones, was true to nature, owning his or her own appearance, figure and posture. The painstaking efforts of students and teachers of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts further influence the creative techniques of them that can be traced from their later works.
There is no doubt that Rent Collection Courtyard is a revolutionary, successful and creative art work in Chinese art history, which reflects the integration of Western realistic techniques and Chinese traditional clay sculpture techniques. Today, though for many people, it is just a scenic spot and a museum, the 114 figures will live eternally in the manor to witness the changing world.
Focus 2: Lady’s Building
Liu’s Manor is also famous for its characteristic Architecture. The building in the east of the manor is one of the two existing Lady’s Buildings in Anren ancient town, which is to the north of the group sculpture. The two pillars flanked the gate are painted in vermilion; the white ceramic tiles clad on the lintel are written four characters symbolizing for propitiousness and good fortune, the top of which is a relief of white peony, looking very elegant and poised.
In feudal era, young women were limited by various written or unwritten disciplines and regulations, who had to behave decently and properly. And in some domestic architecture, aiming to confine the young woman to a limited space, Lady’s Buildings came into being. Lady’s Building in Liu’s Manor was built in 1930s, containing three floors and of six sides. The first floor is as large as the second one and both of them constitute a continuous gallery together with other buildings, which happen to form a circle. The area of the rooftop was the sum of the area of the two galleries.
The building is made of bricks and wood in the frame of black bricks with white walls. The most delicate and picturesque design is the six-sided pinnacle, which reflects the building style in the certain historical period. All in all, the unique design of the rooftop boasts an appropriate area, good lighting and an open view, where you can overlook the scenery of the fields and gardens.
Focus 3: West Sichuan Folk Museum
Opposite the backdoor of Liu’s Manor is the new maison of Liu’s family, whose building style is quite different from the old one. The old maison (Liu’s Manor) is like a blockhouse lack of liveliness, while the new one is natural and graceful, orderly laid and symmetrically built, presenting the hierarchy of feudal society.
It is said that the new maison was built by Liu Wencai for Liu Wenhui. However, due to the approaching of the establishment of PRC, the maison was laid aside and only some long-term workers resided there once. And now it becomes West Sichuan Folk Museum. The museum consists two symmetrical courtyards (only one of which is opened), which are formed by three quadrangles. The first quadrangle mainly exhibits the wedding custom and ceremony in western Sichuan; the second one the means of production and the products; and the third one custom and local specialties.
The Hall of Wedding Custom is worth visiting, where you can see traditional wedding sedan chairs, the guard of honor, wedding rites and bridal chambers. The wedding rites will be performed by the sculptures in the hall, which will picture a vivid middle-class wedding ceremony full of the characteristics of the twentieth century for you.
Liu’s Manor has rich historic and cultural heritage so that you’d better get an interpreter with you. Around the manor are many local restaurants with special dishes like Wen-tsai ribs, Wenqing duck, tofu pudding. You can also buy nougats as a present for your friends and family members.
Address: No. 15, Jingui Street, Anren Town, Dayi County
Open Time: 9:00-17:00
Ticket: 40 yuan per capita
Titles: National 4A Tourist Attraction, National Cultural Relic Reservation Unit, National Third-Class Museum