Last updated by lavender0108 at 2013-10-28
The Zhangjiao Village is located in Tuling Town, which is attached to Quanzhou City, Fujian Province. The village is a stone-built paradise. While walking in the peaceful and quiet village, beautiful scenery will appear in your field of view, just like exquisite oil paintings unfolding in front of you and exemplified by a cloud of end-to-end colorful stone-houses in an overlapping array. These houses are called “Shi Cuo” by local people (“Shi” means stone, “Cuo” means laying). They began to be constructed in the transitional period from the late Ming dynasty to the early Qing dynasty (the Qing dynasty started in 1636A.D.). In their 300-year history, the houses have experienced a lot of vicissitudes in the world.
The original name of the Zhangjiao Village is “Dongkeng” (East Pit). According to the local villagers, there was a 700-year old camphor tree standing in the village, which was so huge that the village looked like it was located at the foot of the tree when viewed from within the tree. Hence the derived name “Zhangjiao Village” (“Zhang” means camphor tree, “Jiao” means foot.) Outside the village, there is a deep pond, with a golden bell at the bottom of it, so that chimes may be heard at intervals.
Villagers here call themselves “Zhangjiao Natives”. They begin to make a living away from home as young adults. When they are older, they may have settled down abroad, or they may return home after several years’ traveling. The only thing in common and that will never change is the homesick emotion. People here follow the ancestral custom to swing dragon lanterns on every Lantern Festival (January 15th on Chinese Lunar Calendar). During the days close to the Lantern Festival, the villagers play operas everyday on the stage which they have set up. They also walk in front of the stage, back and forth, carrying and swaying the Buddhas from their ancestral temples. This is called “Buddha-Wobbling”.
The Colorful Stone-Houses
There is an old saying——“the stones are cute since they are silent and never transmit rumors.” Walking in the Zhangjiao Village, you’ll have particularly strong feelings of this. The colorful houses and the convexo-concave stones give the village the beauty of geniality and simplicity.
There are paddy fields in the mountains of Zhangjiao Village. Since the villagers grudge the use of the formed land for construction, all of the houses here are built back into the mountains. The villagers get raw materials from local resources, and use the stones in various sizes and shapes for wall stacking without any cutting or polishing. Viewed from a distance, you can see fish-scale tiles in red and black colors extending to the foot of the mountain. Some fresh leaves adhere to the stones, accompanying the old houses. It is easy to imagine, several hundred years ago, ancestors here must have held a tremendous devotion to life so that they built their own houses with the colorful stones, by stacking them one by one.
Since all of the houses were built randomly, most of them are split-level houses and you even need to climb a stairway to get to a neighboring house. One special attribute is that all of the windows are very small here, designed to avoid thievery. When being viewed from a distance, the small windows are just like the eyes of the houses. Additionally there are always open-air alleys or tiny courtyards, which admit light to the houses. Some of the families have big monolithic stones outside the front gate, a favorite place for children to play.
The alleyways in the village are very narrow, which make the village like a labyrinth. Roads here are also stone-paved, showing mysterious traceries after many years of rain-scouring. You can touch the walls on both sides of you when walking through the alleyways. Viridescent moss-spots appear from apertures on the stone walls almost like graffiti. . The old vines and new flowers winding on the stone walls bring vitality to the pure and quiet alleyways. Since the stones are full of metal elements, after long-time exposure to rain and sunshine, rusty spots appear and spread on them covering the walls with red-brown, grey-white, navy blue, and other colors. Under sunshine, the houses look extremely colorful and dazzling. The whole scenery is like an oil painting without any decoration.
Among the folk dwellings, the most special and magnificent one is the “Ruifenglou” building. According to the old people, this construction was built during the period of Emperor Jiaqing in Qing dynasty (the period of Emperor Jiaqing is from 1796A.D. to 1820A.D.). It was very palatial before being destroyed by fire. Even its front gate is made up with exquisitely-carved square diabases. There is a tablet on the gate lintel, with the characters “Rui Feng”. Three sides of the construction are stone-stacking walls to the top. There are only three small windows on the front wall of 2nd floor and a big courtyard in the center, which is somehow like the Minxi Hakka Style Castle.
Buddha-Wobbling and Dragon Lantern-Swaying
In the Zhangjiao Village, people keep the ancestral custom of celebrating the Lantern Festival. Starting from the days close to the lantern festival, the whole village becomes bustling with activity. The villagers are busy setting up the stage for performing the operas. Buddha-Wobbling will also be performed. Every family surname has its own ancestral temple and sacrifices to its own Buddhas. When operas are performed, the villagers follow the ancestral custom to carry their Buddhas to the front of the stage, then orbit and wobble the Buddhas. After wobbling the Buddhas in front of the stage, people also need to wobble the Buddhas at the gate of every old house in sequence. Before Buddha-wobbling, women from different families take shrine offerings from their home, and assemble them in the vacant place in front of the opera stage, lighting up the incense and waiting for the Buddhas. When Buddha-Wobbling starts, firecrackers will be set off at the same time.
When the lantern festival comes, all of the villagers come out to walk through the alleyways between the old houses, carrying the dragon lanterns. The “dragon” is very special, made up with a 2-meter wooden batten, each with 10 small lanterns on it. There are candles in the small lanterns. The connection between the wooden battens is also very interesting. Two holes are made at the two ends of each wooden batten and the wooden battens are connected by wooden poles which are carried by the villagers. The many segments of the hundred-meter dragon make the dragon flexible and elastic. The dragon lantern is placed in the ancestral temple earlier. Before lighting it up, the villagers will take it out and put it in the vacant area in front of the ancestral temple, then connect all the wooden battens, put candles in the small lanterns and light them.
Every family name in the village has their own Buddha and dragon lantern. The Buddha precedes the dragon during dragon lantern parade. All of the dragon lanterns which represent the various surnames converge into one long queue several hundred meters long. The queue winds in serpentine fashion during lantern parade, just like a firedrake weaving through the village. (Firedrake is a fire breathing dragon.) The firedrake will pass by every house in an established route. The villagers will set off firecrackers to welcome the dragon lanterns when they are passing by. During the Lantern Festival, when there is a full moon above together with the illuminated paper dragon lantern the scene is impressive and spectacular.
The grand finale is the “Bonfire-Jumping”. People ignite a bonfire in a piece of cropland, two young men carrying a Buddha jump over it and stir up the fire spark at the same time. They do this group by group until the bonfire is extinguished without any sparks. Since this activity has some danger, bravery and courage are needed. The other villagers are in a circle, encouraging the participants with applause and requesting encores while watching the big sparks. After the bonfire-jumping activities, the Buddhas will be sent back to the ancestral temples.
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