Travel Report: Happy Farming Hall, Tongli Water Town.
December 2018. My day wandering around Tongli Water Town literally teleported me back to the days of ancient China. Picturesque canals and cobbled streets? Yup! 600 year old Ming Dynasty shopping lanes? Uh, huh! Wrinkled old Chinese folk sittin’ doin’ nothin’? You know it! Another key part of the Tongli experience was its collection of historical wood and stone residences. Moreover, a handful of these buildings were the ancestral homes of notable local families. Sadly, most of these buildings have no English information at all. Hence it’s pretty much impossible to know what you’re looking at. One old house that does supply foreign visitors with a narrative is Happy Farming Hall, a Ming Dynasty residence on Shangyuan Street.
Happy Farming Hall is one of Tongli Water Town’s most impressive and best preserved buildings. It is the creation of Zhu Xiang, an academic recluse of the Ming Dynasty. The garden features 200 year old orange osmanthus trees and 400 year old lacebark pine trees set around a large goldfish pond and stone bridge.
Happy Farming Hall, Tongli Water Town.
Wander through the reception rooms and you’ll come across nine striking root carvings that have found their way into The Guinness Book of Records! Root carving is a traditional Chinese art form where distorted tree roots are twisted, sculpted and polished into artistic creations. This one is called Gold Bricks In Arms and it was apparently Zhu Xiang himself who created it!
The finest overview of the compound comes here from this second floor balcony. Just cross the stone bridge and head inside the main building up the stairs.
Happy Farming Hall is a lot bigger than you initially think when you enter. It’s actually possible to get lost as you explore the various corridors and hidden side chambers. Poking my head out of a balcony window, I looked down on this pretty little courtyard and wondered how the heck I’d get back onto Shangyuan Street. There are many ancient residences to check out in Tongli Water Town. However, Happy Farming Hall is the biggest and certainly the most interesting. Furthermore, it’s the only place I saw that provided a little English commentary.
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