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A Qing Dynasty House
 
 

 - The Tao Family Ancestral Home -

in

Village Shen Chun




If you liked the visit to the  "Old Woman's House"  in the ancient water town of  Wuzhen , I have reason to believe, that you would be thrilled also to see the Tao Family house in the village of Shen Chun.
At the time when I visited the "Old Woman", I still had not visited my own family's great ancestral house, but during my last visit to China in year 2003, I finally got the opportunity to see this authentic house, where virtually nothing had been changed since the house was built in the late Qing Dynasty.

How the house survived and still remains in the possession of the Tao family is an interesting, but not unusual story. When it was built, a lot of rich farmland also belonged to the Tao family estate, but due to bad luck in gambling, piece after piece of the valuable farmland was lost, - and one day only the great house remained in the family's possession.
Normally such a fate would be considered very unfortunate indeed, - actually a disaster -, but due to the sometimes very unpredictable ways of history, this unfortunate loss of the family land actually turned out to become extremely good luck.
Here is how that came about!
When the communists took over power in China in 1949, it suddenly became a crime to own land and to be rich and well educated. If you were rich, your possessions were taken away from you,- and if well educated, you were degraded and humiliated, and sent to the country side to "learn from the farmers"!  If having real bad luck, you could even be executed as an "enemy of the people".
But the Tao family had no land anymore, and therefore they could hardly be classified as landlords, and since they quickly destroyed and disposed of things that could classify them as "enemies of the people", ,- like for example a rather unique collection of western music -, they miraculously avoided problems in spite of the fact, that their big, old family house easily could accommodate 3 or 4 families. However,- had the farmland still been in their possession, it would for sure have been confiscated, and so would the house, but now this unfortunate situation was avoided.
Others were not so lucky.  In the Chinese villages today you can still see once great houses where the original owners had been chased away or executed,- and their houses now being occupied by several families, who just took over and moved in without giving any compensation.

See below picture of such a house in the village of Yuchun.  Also this house is symmetrical with two parts centered around the main entrance, - just like the old Tao house -, but today this great Yuchun house is not occupied by the owner, but by three other families.
 
 


Village Yuchun

Former rich mans house in village Yuchun, - a symmetrical double house like the Tao family house, but without the many wonderful wall decorations and murals you find on the Tao house - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)




But the magnificent old house of the Tao family survived this turmoil, and remains as family property to this day. However,- to keep up with the new times and its conveniences, the Tao family has now built a new, huge and modern 3 story house at the outskirts of the village,  but only the daughter Kit Yu, - my wife -, really enjoy the new house and often spent time there. The other family members have become "city people", and prefer to stay and live in the big city,- Guangzhou-, where the family now occupies modern apartments as well as an apartment in Hong Kong.

However,- that does not mean that the old ancestral home is empty. It is inhabited by "Elder Uncle", - a very kind, wise and gentle old man -, who stays there all alone. The younger generation have no feeling for the old house anymore, and it looks as if nobody is really interested in taking over when "Elder Uncle" is not around anymore!
The house is old fashioned, - has never been modernized-, and lacks all modern facilities, and of course young, modern people cannot live in such a house in a sleepy, small Chinese village hidden away in the countryside!
But it is in fact those circumstances, that makes this old house FANTASTIC!  It has a truly great atmosphere with a lot of "soul & spirit" , "feeling" and history, - which the new, modern house has not -, and in addition it is also very, very beautiful in its proportions and details!
Only Kit Yu actually understand and "feel" this beauty - - - -   And of course that goes for ME as well!

But now let's take a trip to Shen Chun,- visit the village and the countryside around - , and finally pay a visit to "Elder Uncle" living in the magnificent, authentic  Qing Dynasty house in the center of the village - - -
 
 

Village Shen Chun,- and surroundings - - -




Before I continue to the Tao family ancestral house in Shen Chun, I find that it would be interesting first to show some pictures from the village itself and its surroundings.
Why is that? - you may ask, because there is absolutely nothing in Shen Chun - - - no glittering light, no night clubs, no karaoke bars, no discos, no fancy restaurants, no Chinese Walls, no spectacular temples or palaces, - no nothing - - - -
But the fact that there is absolutely nothing that appeal to the tourist industry, makes it worth while to visit, because here you have a totally normal, typical Chinese village,- the real thing -, like thousands and thousands of similar villages all over China -, and of that very reason it is very interesting to have a closer look at such a place, where no tourists put their feet in spite of the fact, that Shen Chun is in fact very near hustling, bustling, noisy big city Guangzhou - - -

But for now, - please enjoy my impressions from village Shen Chun, - the place of the Tao family's ancestral home - - -
 
 




Village Shen Chun
- many traditional houses remain,- and rice being dried on the road -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Village Shen Chun
- the big tree at the center of the village, - a popular meeting place for people to talk and chat -
Take note of the building to the right, with a big star on top, - a typical "souvenir" from the Mao era.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Village Shen Chun
- "See my dog!!!" -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Village Shen Chun
- the rice crop is dried wherever there is an open space -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen
 
 
 


Village Shen Chun
- but there are also many narrow alleyways in the village center -
(Photography by karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Village Shen Chun
- revealing wonderful details of old architecture -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


The old village temple in Shen Chun

During the Mao period, it is estimated that 75.000 temples were destroyed and disappeared.  However,- some survived the fury of the Red Guard, being  converted to bicycle workshops or tea houses,- or like in this case -, to a chair factory.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Shen Chun countryside
- immaculate tended fields outside Shen Chun -
(Photography by karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Shen Chun countryside
- fields with narrow footpaths and irrigation canals everywhere -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Shen Chun farmland
- very intensive agriculture, - every bit of land is used -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 
 


And old farm house outside Shen Chun
- still with revolutionary Mao writing on the wall -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Shen Chun countryside
- here a farmhouse -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Shen Chun farm house

Kit Yu checking out the farmer's water cleaning device - - -  don't ask me how it works, but it is some kind of filtering device that can clean the Pearl River water so that the farmer can use the water for cooking and drinking, which is otherwise not possible due to heavy pollution - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 
 


Shen Chun Farmer
- on his way to work with his water buffalo -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 
 


Pearl River
- a beautiful, peaceful river,- part of the Pearl River delta passing Shen Chun village -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 
 


The water buffalo
- an important farming tool in Shen Chun -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Village Shen Chun
Shen Chun farmland,- and the new Tao family country house in the background -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 
 


Shen Chun farmland
- view from the new Tao family country house -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Village Shen Chun
- at the opposite side of the village new, modern houses shoot up, indicating the arrival of new times -
(Photography by karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Tao Family Ancestral House
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

But for now, - let's go back into the center of Shen Shung, and in a maze of narrow passages you suddenly stumble over a great, old house from the Qing dynasty, - the Tao family ancestral home, which you can see at the left side of above picture.
The next page will show many more pictures of this beautiful house - - -

 
 

Click  HERE  for "The Tao Family Ancestral Home"



Updated:  March 10th. 2004
                  Nov. 17th. 2004
                  Sept.15.2006
                  Sept.18.2006