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Home >> Focus on Yunnan >> Zheng Ying Village

Zheng Ying Village - The first village of Yunnan

Its Buildings

Zhen Village, regarded as "the first village of Yunnan" within academic circles, is located on Shiping County, Yunnan. Zheng village gets its status from its historical sites under state protection, numerous cultural relics, and a great deal of old wells, bridges, scriptures, monuments, and trees. In 1999, Zheng Village was listed as the first of Yunnan's famous historical villages. It is now considered the "older brother"to Yunnan's other villages.
The three provincial historical and cultural sites under state protection are the Cheng ancestral hall, the Zheng ancestral hall and the Cheng courtyard. In addition to the Cheng and Zheng ancestral halls, there is also the Wu ancestral hall. The ancestral halls and local houses were deeply connected to old southern culture, and managed to retain much of Ming and Han culture for 600 years.

The scale of the Cheng ancestral hall, the grade of its building material, delicate decoration, perfect curving and unique design is seldom seen in our country. Connoisseurs of old buildings often say, "I had never seen so magnificent an ancestral hall, at least in southwest China. It is the most luxurious and extravagant building in the village." The Cheng ancestral hall absorbed the elite Han and imperial architecture. The hall's stone and wooden curving, famous calligraphy, paintings and scriptures are all rare artifacts today. Yet, the buildings were used as everything but a museum in recent times. Some sections of the complex were distributed to peasant during the period of land reform. Others are used a barn and grinding room. The whole hall is now divided into several parts by sun-dried mud bricks and is used as houses, kitchens, and pig pens. When viewing the stone bricks and carvings from the outside of the ancestral hall, its perfect design and delicate curving create an ideal setting. Even the unprofessional could imagine its value at first sight. Fortunately, the ancestral hall is listed as a provincial site under state protection. The villages will eventually move out, allowing the Zheng ancestral hall to be restored to its original splendor.

The Wu ancestral hall is located beside the village. Its floor is of slab stone. The carved beams and painted rafters suggest that the hall was a great expense for the Wu family. But because it has not been maintained over the years, it is in very poor condition today. The central hall, which enshrines the Wu's ancestors, is used as a horse stall today although it is still decorated very luxuriously. The villages who live in this ancestral hall expect the house to collapse soon. They hope that the government will spend some resources to repair it.

There are so many local houses in Zheng Village worth of visiting. The largest and most representative is Chen's courtyard, which is also a cultural site under state protection. Its curving and frescoes are masterpieces of the Ming and Qin Dynasty.

The arrangement of Zheng village took planning. The border of this village is called "There Streets and Nine Lanes." All of the building are arranged along nine lanes, running north to south, and three streets, running from east to west. The streets are divided into Upper Street, Middle Street and Lower Street. Only the Middle streets are made of stone. All of the streets and lanes are named using a surname such as Li Lane, Chen Lane and Ma Lane.

One villager of Zhen village once said proudly, "Don't reckon that it is fashionable to build environmentally friendly cities today. Ours is just old fashioned, built in Ming or Qin Dynasty." The unique buildings , gardens, farmlands, vegetable plots, springs and roadways are in harmony with the environment. And the exceptional climate makes the small place both elegant and tasteful.

Zheng Village is the cradle of Baoxiu Town, which is the cradle of Shiping County. Since ancient times, Shiping County has been the source of great talent. There were 65 literary schools, 15 members of the imperial Academy, an economic expert and 11 military scholars. Altogether, there are 640 scholars of either the pen or gun. The number of scholars in Shiping is rivaled only by Yunnan's capital, Kunming City. Yet, Shiping is only just a county.

Among Shipinhg people, there are old sayings that describe the numerous talents of the time. It was said that almost every family had scholar. Perhaps this was no exaggeration.
At the end of the Qin Dynasty, the imperial examination system was stopped and the new style of schools sprang forth. Yet, there were still many talents in Shiping. During the period of the Republic of China,142 students from Shiping attended college. Among them, 12 students studied in Japan, 6 studied in America and one studied in France.

In 1998, it was recorded that 2,400 of the county's the entrance examination since Liberation. Dozens of students studied in China's famous universities. Several students even gained their doctorate degree from America and Russia. Among them, were many influential figures such as writer LiQiao, an expert in petrochemistry, and YangZongyu, a member of the Chinese Science Institute. In addition, more one thousand natives became officials. As only a medium-sized county with a population of 280,000 people, the county has made a great contribution to the country by producing bright minds.

There are 2,000 people (520 families) in Zheng Village. The chief engineer of the First Changchun Automobile Factory, Cheng Heting is a villageg native. And the professor of Northwest Univercity, Cheng Fuguan also came froma Zheng Village. Cheng Heting is probably the most influential figure from the Village. He passed the country examination in 1901. In 1903 he won third prize in the governmental examinations and went to study in Japan. In 1904, he was appointed as the head of Tianmng County, Huangpo County and Yidu County. After the Xinhai Revolution, he returned home to Zheng Village. Cheng then called on the local landlord and other elders to bring the Chirui Lake under control. He also contributed to building the slab stone streets and protecting the ancestral hall.

For a short time, Cheng was appointed as the chief manager of Bishi Railway. The railway gave hope to the Yunnan people and was a remarkable project at the time. Meanwhile, he founded two schools in Zheng Village and persuaded the rich merchant, liHen, to donate funds to build Shiping middle school and other public works projects.

A Fertile Paradise

Zheng Village is a fertile paradise. It faces the stunning Chirui Lake. To the east and west are Bao Mountain and Xiu Mountain. Therefore, villagers are more self-contained and self-sufficient than other regions of Yunnan. They engage in plant and animal husbandry. They also raise fish. The villagers even process their own bean curd and daily life there is tasteful. There are also man-made pools and pavilions built by the landlords for public recreation during the Ming and Qin Dynasties.

Chirui Lake is the treasure bowl of Zheng Village. It is home to an abundant amount of fish, shrimp, frogs, river snail and edible seaweed. It also contains an endangered variety of fish that was thought to be extinct in 1970s. There are still grass carp, red carp, blue carp swimming within Chirui's depths.
Chirui Lake keeps the surrounding fields fertile with its moisture. The Zheng people said that fertilizer is seldom used on the fields, resulting in more tasteful grain, wheat, vegetables. The oranges and peaches planted on the back side of the mountain are also delicious. The bean curd, which is processed locally, is fragrant and tender.

There are two paths going to Zheng Village. One crosses the bank of the Chirui Lake. Although this path is difficult to walk, it is a scenic route. And it also allows for the opportunity to communicate with nature. The colorful birds, schools of white egrets, greedy ducks and fishermen from a harmonious picture, which can seldom be seen in China. You can breathe in the air of the forests and appreciate the view of the whole town with Chirui Lake on horizon.

The truth behind the old saying, "Trees raise water, water raise land and land raise people" is understood clearly by the clever Zheng people. The villagers said , "Zheng people had an ecological consciousness as far back as the Ming or Qin Dynasties." They knew that clean water is created by trees. So during the time of Great Leap Forward or "learning from Da Village" campaign, they did not cut the trees on the mountain. It has been 600 years since their ancestors arrived, yet the people keep to the tradition of protecting the cypress banyan, pine, orange and peach trees.

Guests always praise the beautiful Chirui Lake when they arrive. But the villagers respond with a sigh of bitter regret. They said, "Chirui Lake will soon become a pond. There are abundant fish, shrimp, edible seaweed, seagull, ducks and numerous birds here. It is also convenient to do business in Shiping County by boat. But if the lake continues to dry up, the Chirui Lake will become only swamplands."


History

Visitors to Zheng Village often question why such a place contain so many historical and cultural sites and well as being the hometown to so many of China's scholars. An answer is available to the careful observer: All of the village in Baoxiu Town have origins connected to the Ming army, who once organized garrison troops or peasants to open up the wasteland and grow food. The Shiping area began to be settled by Han people and villagers gradually formed. (Although Zheng village is part of Baoxin Town, it is not considered one of the "The Twelve Towns of Baoxiu.") Zheng Village was originally called Pusheng. It was a place for Tai people rather than Han. But 1382, the second son of one general of Ming Dynasty moved to this place and renamed it Zheng Village.

Zheng Village is a paradise of warm weather, delightful sunshine, tasteful water and fertile land. When the Ming army came, they brought with them many advanced yields. So, poverty was not a problem. The descendants instead paid greater attention to the pursuit of position and wealth. They founded academies and energetically encouraged their youth to train for the imperial examination.

Those who gained position and wealth from the imperial examination were able to build the many ancestral halls, courtyard, villages, bridge and temple to pay tribute to ancestors and retain a good name for posterity. The houses were built by scholars, and therefore pay particular attention to the cultural atmosphere of the time in addition to the quality of the material and design. And so the village grew rich in cultural heritage, much of which still remains untouched today.

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