Self Tour in the Ancient Town of Zhaohua
Dapeng is a man full of poetic thinking, who likes to use abundant auxiliary words of mood to describe something very common, like having meals, taking a nap and answering the nature call. Unfortunately, this poetic man often makes himself kind of sentimental so that many years ago, influenced by the “Going Far-away” fever prevailing on the Web, he became extremely attached to places which were far away from home and dreaming of his encounters with wine, poetry, beauty there. Later, he backpacked to Lijiang, a famous ancient town in Yunnan Province and a dreamland for most people with far-away complex.
When he came back to Chengdu from Lijiang, he said nothing about Lijiang. At first, we guessed that the poetic everything he had encountered in Lijiang had already bewitched him and when he found his soul back, he would share with us his experience. Later, he complained: “Lijiang! Full of decoys! Snow mountains! Ancient roads! Damn it all!I met decoys almost everywhere, taverns, scenic spots, car hires, tourist centers. I was almost trapped to lose my clothes. It seems that each bottle of wine there is a wickedly gleaming knife, each stone in jade shops is snarling with gaping jaws. How a clean city becomes a gorgeous robe torn by countless cooties?” he added.
Because of Dapeng’s trip to Lijiang, he put off strong resistance to every ancient town for a very long time. Therefore, my plan to bring him to Zhaohua became difficult and I had even thought of binding him or drugging him to go with me. Luckily, things went quite smooth that he was quite interested in Zhaohua when he heard that the ancient town of Zhaohua lied near the Jialing River, at the center of the Taiji diagram formed by waters and mountains, which can easily arouse people’s poetic thinking deep inside.
Night fell when we arrived at Zhaohua. Dapeng said: “Night life in a city can reflect the original look of it. Nights in Lijiang are carnivals for dreaming drunks, who see the girls in shirt as naked and sink their mind in the gutter.”When he said this, he wore an expression of grief and indignation. I could not measure how painful he was when recollecting his memory of Lijiang. However, nights in Zhaohua were totallydifferent with no drunks, but crowds of unsophisticated local people. I passed a cigarette to an old man who was sitting in his bamboo chair, looking up at the starry sky and Dapeng happened to surprise a little girl hiding under the table when he banged the table.
It was late winter so that Zhaohua was bathed in sunlight completely until eight o’clock or so. We rambled on its old streets, surrounded by white-wall and black-tile houses. It is awar-torn ancient city called Jiameng, which can be originatedfrom the Three Kingdoms period. Strips of vines climbed on the walls, like the worst sign of wars, telling the valiant fights of the Three Kingdoms heroes. All things around, like Town God’s Temple, Jiameng Pavilion were into a precioushistorical scroll painting down the vicissitudes of Three Kingdoms. Dapeng paced back and forth on the narrow stone walkway，with his fingers touched each city wall of Zhaohua. He thought he was touching history, but for me, what he got was just a hand of lime.
The Jialing River is as green as emerald, running alongside Zhaohua silently for thousands of years. It forms a Taiji diagram together with mountains and places the city at the center of the diagram. This is particularly poetic for Dapeng. We were standing at the rim of the city where the city walls kept the original looks, weather-beaten and in ruins, less than two meters high. Dapeng persisted to climbing over the wall to see the Jialing River. However, a man with poets’ mind and thinking also had a poet’s lifestyle---lack of exercise. Someone with weak vision see him from a distance may surprisingly find a walking stump. Half an hour later, he finally climbed up on the wall, overlooked the scenery enjoyably and let out the brewing poems to express himself. Suddenly, an old farmer came by with a burden of manure, looking up and down Dapeng as if he were a walking stump.
Dapeng walked across a field of budding cole flowers and then the river bank with reeds in wind and finally he lied down alongside the Jialing River, absorbed in thinking. I wondered if he was thinking of the history of the Jiamengguan Fortress---the heroic battles and powerfully advancing warships, the general Jiang Boyue standing silently onshore with his long cuff fluttering, the Prime Minister Zhuge Liang launching ten machine crossbows. Stopping our association, what we saw were just the stretch of mountains without any trails of the magnificent historical scenes. How time flies!
In Zhaohua, there is a scenic spot named Daojianba Junchenyuan. Daojian means swords. Why people named was so is that the place was where Liu Bei, the king of the Shu Kingdom, drilled his army and often came out the clashing of swords. Unfortunately, this spot was one of the six charged scenic spots in Zhaohua. And Dapeng had already played ducks and drakes with his savings in Lijiang, so he had to save the 58-yuan ticket fee to pay for board and meals. As for me, I sniffed at all the charged scenic areas, so we didn’t visit these places.
Things followed were very funny. Dapeng heard of a piece of groundless information that Daojianba Junleyuan was designed in the principle of Taiji Ying-Yang diagram, with a bamboo forest as the center of the tactical deployment to hide the statues of the heroes of the Three Kingdoms so that tourists could easily get lost in the site without a guide. This again triggered the poetic thinking in Dapeng. He was determined to go inside and had an investigation. His plan was to climb over the wall into the site with the undercover of darkness. When he told me this in high spirits, I refused directly to accompany with him. To my surprise, he was lost in the next few days and then turned out again. We were curious about his experience but he kept silence. We even surmised that he might had a time-travel to someplace unknown.
Later, Dapeng told us when he was drunk: “Time-travel? You nut! I was caught by the monitor when I jumped from the wall and spent three days to tell the security personnel that I had had a time-travel from the Three Kingdoms periods and happened to land there.”
When we back in Chengdu, Dapeng seemed that he had already forgotten all the unhappy things happened in Lijiang and became enchanted with ancient towns. I guess places without being tainted by commercials like Zhaohua have a great impact on Dapeng, because he has written a lot of poems, actually doggerels to praise there.
City God’s Temple, also Chenghuang Temple, originates from the sacrificial ceremony of Shui (Huang) Yong(Cheng), one of the eight gods in God’s genealogy of the Zhou Dynasty.Cheng referred to earth-built high walls; and Huang referred to city moat without water inside; together, Chenghuang referred to city walls and city moat in the ancient time, representing the God who could safeguard all citizens and maintain the peace of the city. Then, Taoism included it into their God’s genealogy, whose responsibilities were safeguarding the city, punishing the evils and mastering the underworld. Afterwards, where there is a city, there is a Chenghuang temple.
The Chenghuang Temple in Zhaohua was built in the Tang Dynasty, which has been destroyed for several times because of wars and has been rebuilt again and again. Now, it has two halls and two Wu Halls as well as a quadrangle courtyard with fourteen paintings about kind deeds and filial piety hanging on the walls. Besides, in the courtyard are the two high, ancient cypress trees, which is said planted by Zhangfei, a hero in the Three Kingdom. So people also name it “Zhangfei Cypress”. This kind of cypress still can be seen alongside the ancient roads, especially the most famous one---Cuiyun Lang. In the shadows of the ancient trees, the Chenghuang Temple looks more solemnly and mysteriously.