郭洞村 Guōdòng

Nate and I took advantage of our class-free Golden Week (Fall 2012) to get out of relatively busy, urban Hangzhou and see the semi-preserved villages around Wuyi (a fairly standard modern city about 4 hours by bus from Hangzhou). First up, Guōdòng: 郭 guō translates as city wall and 洞 dòng as cave. Of which the village has neither. The name comes from the mountain ridge that partially encircles the village and thus creates the sense of being walled in (with the village as the resulting cavern). Guōdòng’s most noted characteristics are the good fēng shuǐ considerations that went into the village’s planning; my hazy translations mostly point towards making use of mountain and river arrangements to pick Guōdòng’s location. Anyway, the village dates back to the Song dynasty but the oldest remaining structures date to the Ming.

 

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Following four photographs: The Ancestral Hall of the He Clan 何氏宗祠,  you’ll note from the photograph below that you read that from right to left. A chunk of a building in the heart of the village. In context to the other structures its dominant scale was definitely demonstrative of the He Clan’s (long-ago) economic success.

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Getting image heavy so here’s some extra looks for the die hards: more texture (now with soot), wall section type photo, the something I love about contemporary China photo, traditional roof-line constructed with modern materials (pre-plaster), and hotel view.

 

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A rammed earth courtyard house, pretty typical of the region. Especially without plaster, I find the building good-looking but the drawback to that is a shortened lifespan. The interrupted cycle of upkeep as the younger generations move to the cities, the question of forgotten craft as construction rapidly switches to brick and concrete, and the baffling situation of being located in a preserved scenic area and how an individual can find funds as a beneficial result of that status, all interesting and easily depressing questions.

 

An aside: Despite what you see here China is a very populated country and while I make an effort to stay away from the known high-density sites and their relative high-density seasons (Běijīng in the autumn, Xīhú in the spring, any form of public transportation during New Year), there’s definitely a unsatisfying tendency of mine to avoid taking photographs of people. All I can say is I’m aware of it and as my linguistic confidence grows by the day I hope the nature of my photographs gains some variety.