Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Where time stands still: Shimen village (China)

Hi Sign Hunters,

In December 2020, the Chovan Science Class went to Shimencun (石门村) in Shaoxing (绍兴), as we all did a fossil exploration trip on the nearby hills. This is the first time that so many people from the group joined in taking a photo of the welcome sign, but this is Asia, of course, and people here like taking photos. Besides this, while the kiddos were lectured, I snuck off to explore the village a little bit and take some photos. Missing out on this place would have been a big mistake! It is one of those settlements in Zhejiang, in Eastern China, where the time seems to have stopped: old people, old, windy streets, old houses that retains some black-tiled, white-wall houses that date back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Although, everything is kept nice and tidy, with house walls decorated with Communist symbolism.

Shimen village is located at the border of Hangzhou and Anji County in the northeast of Majian Town (马剑镇). The village area is 15.14 square kilometres with a population around 1500 people and 491 households. It has a valley situation and the village is surrounded by beautiful hills with lush, green vegetation. In olden times, the village was a vital point along the Huihang Ancient Road (徽杭古道), through which merchants transported daily supplies between Zhejiang and Anhui provinces (click here to see a previous blog post on the Huihang Ancient Road). Historically, Shimen was famous for trade of traditional Chinese medicine and herbs. Today, the village is still known for traditional medicine and natural remedies.

This blog post has two main parts. The first part shows a few photos and information of the village. The second part presents some photos taken during the fossil trip. Enjoy!

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~ Laszlo

Part 1: The Village

Zhujia Hall

It was built in 1760 (the 25th year of Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty), and has a history of 260 years. It was built by the 21st Duke of Zhumen, the overall structure of which is basically intact. Both the exterior and the interior of the building maintain the architectural style of Qing Dynasty, which has the characteristics of traditional residential buildings. It has two houses, facing east with the back to the West, with wing rooms on both sides.

Shimen Temple

Commonly known as Shuikou temple, is used as a place of sacrifice for local folk beliefs. The architectural pattern is basically intact, which has certain research and reference value. The whole building of Shimen temple is composed of lobby, entrance hall, main hall and wing rooms, facing southwest from northeast, which is the building of the Republic of China. The lobby is five rooms wide, with four columns and nine purlins. There are two steps forward and backward, and five beams in the open room. The side rooms present through-bucket structure. The front eaves are built with brick walls, and the back eaves are open, which are in the shape of three lights and three shades. The back eaves of the open room connect with the entrance hall. The entrance hall has two columns and five purlins, three lifting beams and herringbone sloping roof. The main hall is five rooms wide, with four columns and nine purlins. There are two steps forward and backward and five beams in the open room, which are in the shape of three lights and three shades. Between the gold pillar and the back wall after the open room and side rooms, a shrine and a Buddha statue are set up.

Xuanzhao Thatched Hut

It is a Qing-style private courtyard on the hilltop, which is made up of dilapidated house after a fire in an old house some years ago. The owner of the house is Zhu Yaochun, a famous collector, connoisseur and painter. In his early years, e was destined to be taught by Zhao Qishan, Qigong, Lou Yulie, Zhu Baoqing and other ancestors, and benefited a lot from them. He once wrote "eight mountain people painting birds", "Pu Hua" and "Recognizing Pan Tianshou".

Ancient Paper Mill Site

Ancient papermaking technology has a history of nearly 350 years in Shimen village. In its heyday, handcraft workshops were widely distributed in Shimen. In general, the workshops were built at the foot of the mountain along the side of the stream. At the peak, 13 paper-making workshops of different sizes were built, with more than 100 families engaged in paper-making production. Its products are called straw paper (commonly known as fire paper of Fang Lian paper), mainly used for writing brush characters, funeral, sacrifice and other aspects. The whole process of ancient paper making has seventy-two processes, which mainly includes cutting bamboo, splitting bamboo, retting bamboo, boiling bamboo, rolling, extracting pulp, making paper, pressing, drying and so on, which is not different from Cai Lun's paper making described in Tiangongkaiwu. In the past few hundred years, people of Shimen village, which is deep in the mountains, have always adhered to a traditional manual paper-making method, recording the ups and downs of each family in the ancient village with their own hand-made paper. Because these papers can be preserved for hundreds of years without decay, this paper-making process has become the "living-fossil" of Shimen culture.

Part 2: The Field trip

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

© All photos were taken by Laszlo Bokor (2020). The Sign Hunters, all rights reserved.


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