Archive for the ‘Pingyao Travel’ Category

How to Visit Wang Family Courtyard

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
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Plan your Pingyao tour? One day side trip to Wang Family Courtyard and Zhangbi Village is high recommended. Wang Family Courtyard in Shanxi is actually not a “courtyard”, it is a cluster of courtyards or castles. The huge Wang family compound used to have five castles, five lanes and five ancestral temples with an area of 250,000 square meters, much larger than the 150,000 square-meter Forbidden City in Beijing and Qiao Family Coutyard.

At the time ofmy writing, only three huge complexes of Wang’s grand courtyard are open to the public after restoration and renovation – Gaojiaya Castle, Red Gate Fort and Wang Clan Ancestral Temple. The three complexes accommodate 123 courtyards, 1118 rooms with an area of 45,000 square meters, the well preserved part of the quintessence of Chinese architectural art in Wang Family Courtyard, which took took about half a century (1762-1811) to build.

With a history of over 680 years, the Wangs have lived on for 27 generations throughout all the ups and downs. The Wang family had their heyday in the period of Qing Dynasty from 1661 to 1820. In the eighteenth century (in  the reign of Daoguang), Wang’s family gradually declined. In 1996 the last generation of the Wangs moved out of their age-old residence and the Grand Courtyard was opened to the public in 1997. This largest-existing folk residence cluster sits on the slopes of the hills. Layers of gardens and courtyard houses on different heights of the hills give the compound more levels and the hill more lively and glamour.

The courtyard style began in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100BC-771BC), with the halls in the front, the gardens and bedrooms at the back. The Gao Jia Ya and Red-Gate Castle have numerous courtyards and roomd built in the light of the Chinese traditional courtyard architecture.

Beside its exquisite courtyard architecture, Wang family grand compound boasts delicate and ornate brick, wood and stone carvings. Carving works can be seen almost anywhere in the compoud of the Wangs and each piece of the work is fine and ingenious. As an important part of the courtyard’s architecture art, the carvings demonstrate the artistic level of the time.

Wang Family Courtyard Travel Tips:

Open hours: 08:00 – 19:30 ( summer ); 08:00- 18:00 Open all year

Entrance Fee: RMB 66

Two diret buses go from Pingyao Bus Station starting 8:50am and 1.10pm for Wang Family Courtyard and returning at 12:40pm and 4:00pm from Wang Family Courtyard. Or you may first go to Jiexiu from Pingyao, then connect the local buses from Jiexiu to Wang Family Courtyard. A taxi rental costs about RMB 300 from and to Pingyao.

Well, please follow me to have a glimpse of the huge compound. For the normal travel rout, people would first visit the east compound of Gao Jia Ya, then move along the bridge to the west castle of Red Gate Castle, finally to the Ancestral Temple of Wang’s Clan.

This is the east gate to the Gao Jia Ya Castle. Two large red lanterns hung over from the gate tower and two smaller ones from the upturned eaves.

This is the east gate to the Gao Jia Ya Castle.

This is the east gate to the Gao Jia Ya Castle.

 

Rows of courtyard houses are laid out symmetrically. The courtyards were built under the principle conforming to social institutions and practicality.

Rows of courtyard houses are laid out symmetrically

Rows of courtyard houses are laid out symmetrically

A typical Chinese courtyard building with fine and exquisite wood and stone carvings.

A typical Chinese courtyard building with fine and exquisite wood and stone carvings.

A typical Chinese courtyard building with fine and exquisite wood and stone carvings.

A exquisite frame window, a horizontal wood inscribed board with a Chinese character “Double Happiness )

A exquisite frame window, a horizontal wood inscribed board with a Chinese character Double Happiness

A exquisite frame window, a horizontal wood inscribed board with a Chinese character Double Happiness

Stone piers at the door.

Stone piers at the door,

Stone piers at the door,

The courtyard style began in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100BC-771BC), with the halls in the front, the gardens and bedrooms at the back

 

the halls in the front, and bedrooms at the back

the halls in the front, and bedrooms at the back

A bridge connects Gaojia and Red Gate Castle

A bridge connects Gaojia and Red Gate Castle

A bridge connects Gaojia and Red Gate Castle

The Red Gate Castle is circled by a high city wall, comparable to the Great Wall in height and width.

The Red Gate Castle is circled by a high city wall, comparable to the Great Wall in height and width.

The Red Gate Castle is circled by a high city wall, comparable to the Great Wall in height and width.

This is a  labyrinth-like castle with numerous courtyard houses and lanes.

This is a  labyrinth-like castle with numerous courtyard houses and lanes.

This is a labyrinth-like castle with numerous courtyard houses and lanes.

Rows of courtyard houses cascade from the hills.

Rows of courtyard houses cascade from the hills.

Rows of courtyard houses cascade from the hills.

A screen wall stone carvings

A screen wall stone carvings

A screen wall stone carvings

 

A wooden bracket suppots the roof without nails.

 

A wooden bracket suppots the roof without nails

A wooden bracket suppots the roof without nails

The two flying eaves are in the form of dragon-heads.

The two flying eaves are in the form of dragon-heads.

The two flying eaves are in the form of dragon-heads.

A stone frame window

 

A frame window

A frame window

 

 

a cluster of Mythical figure tiles

a cluster of Mythical figure tiles

Walking on the city wall to have a bird-eye view of the courtyard houses.

Walking on the city wall to have a bird-eye view of the courtyard houses.

Walking on the city wall to have a bird-eye view of the courtyard houses.

 

From the wall, you can also have a glimpse of the cave dwelling

From the wall, you can also have a glimpse of the cave dwelling

Any questions, just drop a line.

 

 

The south gate to the Red Gate Castle

The south gate to the Red Gate Castle

 

 

How to Visit Zhenguo Temple in Pingyao

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
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Plan your Pingyao tour? Along with Pingyao Ancient City and Shuanglin Temple, Zhenguo Temple is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Site as “Ancient City of Pingyao”. Zhenguo Temple is famed for its wooden buildings. It is worth your 1-2 hour exploration on your side trip from the ancient walled city of Pingyao itself.

Zhenguo Temple is located in Hadong Village 16km to the northeast of Pingyao Ancient City. At the time of my writing, there is no public transport connecting the old city of Pingyao and Zhenguo Temple. Basically you need to take a taxi or rent a private vehicle to visit Zhenguo Temple.

Zhenguo Temple faces to the south with the Hall of Heavenly Kings (Tianwang Hall) as its gate. After the Tianwang Hall are the two main halls – Wanfo Hall and Sanfo Hall which form two courtyards in between. On both sides of the two courtyards are several side halls. There is a high wall circling the entire compound.

Wanfo Hall is the oldest building in Zhenguo Temple dating back to the year 963 in the short-lived North Han Dynasty. Originally, the temple was named as Jincheng Temple. In the year 1541 in Ming Dynasty, the temple was renamed as the present name – Zhenguo Temple.>

Zhenguo Temple is noted for Chinese traditional wooden structures featuring very large brackets holding up the roof and flying eaves as well as the sculptures inside the halls.

Follow me to enter the 1000-year-old buddhist temple.

This is the Temple’s pailou – Chinese traditional archway and behind the pailou is a large parking lot and a clean public toilet.

Chinese traditional archway

Chinese traditional archway

The ticketing office is by the outer entrance to the temple. RMB 30 per person.

This is the entrance to the temple complex.

This is the entrance to the temple complex.

This is the entrance to the temple complex. The entrance is actually a gate popularly known as Tianwang Hall( Heavenly King’s Hall).

The entrance gate - The Tianwang Hall

The entrance gate – The Tianwang Hall

The hall was built in Yuan Dynasty ( 1271 – 1368 ) and rebuilt for many times. Inside the hall are statues of the four heavenly kings.

A large bracket holding up the roof and flying eaves in the middle of the Gate (also known as Tianwang)
A dragon head atop the flying eaves on the both sides of the top roof.

A large bracket holding up the roof and flying eaves

A large bracket holding up the roof and flying eaves

North of Zhenguo Temple is the Wanfo Hall. Wanfo Temple was built in 963, the oldest building in the temple. Inside the hall there are eleven painted sculptures built in Five Dynasties ( 907 – 960) and the frescos of 1000 Buddhas.

the Wanfo Hall

the Wanfo Hall

Large brackets support the roofs.

Large brackets support the roofs

Large brackets support the roofs

Through the side gates, you can enter the second courtyard north of Wanfo Temple.

Through the side gates, you can enter the second courtyard north of Wanfo Temple.

Through the side gates, you can enter the second courtyard north of Wanfo Temple.

The second courtyard is centered by the main hall known as the Three Buddhas Hall flanked by the Guanyin Hall in the west and Dizang Halls in the east, which both date from the Ming Dynasty ( 1638 – 1644 ).

the Three Buddhas Hall

the Three Buddhas Hall

The Three Buddhas Hall was built in Ming Dynasty with painted sculptures and frescos. The life story of the Buddha was represented with well-executed frescos on the two walls.
A side brick stair brings you to the second floor of the Three Buddhas Hall.

A side brick stair brings you to the second floor of the Three Buddhas Hall.

A side brick stair brings you to the second floor of the Three Buddhas Hall.

The building on the second floor.

The building on the second floor

The building on the second floor

By the entrance stands on the two large painted sculptures.

By the entrance stands on the two large painted sculptures.

By the entrance stands on the two large painted sculptures.

Any questions, just drop a line.

How to Visit Shuanglin Temple in Pingyao

Friday, October 25th, 2013
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Shuangling Temple was a UNESCO World Heritage site together with the Ancient City of Ping Yao  and  Zhen Guo Temple listed in 1997.  Shuanglin Temple is  a large buddhist temple around Pingyao famed for its over 2,000 colored and decorated clay statues.  If you are not pressed for time when visit Pingyao, a glimpse of Shuanglin Temple is highly recommeded on your Pingyao Tour.

At the time of my writing,  there are no public bus lines connecting Shuanglin Temple with the old town itself.  You take a taxi  ( approx. RMB 60 return taxi fare) or you could cycle there for 7km.  Shuanglin Temple is located in Qiaotou Village 7km to the southwest of Ping Yao ancient city.

Shuanglin Temple was originally named “Zhongdu Temple” built in 571 ( it is said the actual making of the temple was much earlier ).  In Song Dynasty, Zhongdu Temple was renamed “Shuanglin Temple” according to the buddhist buddhist doctrine.  Later,  Shuanglin Temple was destroyed and rebuilt for several time. The present styleof its buildings dates back to Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The present Shanglin Temple has an area of 11620 square meters with its entrance facing south.  An impressive complex of halls forms three courtyards housing a number of intricately carved painted clay statues. Shuanglin Temple looks more authentic than many restored buddhist temples you’ve seen in China. It is worth your exploring here for 1-2 hours.

Now follow me to have a virtual tour of Shuangling Temple. All the indoor halls are forbidden to take pictures. So we cannot present you the ornately carved clay statues.

This is a traditional Chinese archway ( Pailou ) stands facing west outside the compound of Shuangling Temple.

the traditional Chinese archway ( Pailou )

the traditional Chinese archway ( Pailou )

When you enter the pailou, straight ahead, you will see colored Bodhisattva decorated with several arms.
colored Bodhisattva decorated with several arms.

colored Bodhisattva decorated with several arms.

On your left side is the entrance facing south to the temple itself.
the real entrance facing south to the temple itself.

the real entrance facing south to the temple itself.

Enter the temple complex, the first hall is the Hall of Heavenly Kings. outside the hall are four guardian warriors and inside four heavenyly kings and 8 bodhisattvas. These vibrant sculptured were made in Yuan Dynasty ( 1279 – 1368 ) the hall was rebuilt in Ming Dynasty ( 1368 – 1644 ).
the Hall of Heavenly Kings

the Hall of Heavenly Kings

A plaque intricately carved with four Chinese characters hanging over the entrance to the Hall of Heavenly Kings.
A plaque intricately carved with four Chinese characters hanging over the entrance to the Hall of Heavenly Kings.

A plaque intricately carved with four Chinese characters hanging over the entrance to the Hall of Heavenly Kings.

Glazed tiles carved with ornate and beautiful patterns decorate the roof of the Hall.
Glazed tiles carved with ornate and beautiful patterns decorate the roof of the Hall.

Glazed tiles carved with ornate and beautiful patterns decorate the roof of the Hall.

Its roof top is decorated with buddhist images in glazed tiles.
Buddhist images in glazed tiles atop the roof of  the Hall of Sakyamuni

Buddhist images in glazed tiles atop the roof of the Hall of Sakyamuni

Two dragon heads atop the roof ridge of the Hall.
Two dragon head atop the each side the roof ridge of the Hall

Two dragon head atop the each side the roof ridge of the Hall

North of the Hall of Heavenly Kings is the Hall of Sakyamuni, the main hall in the first courtyard formed also by other 4 smaller side halls.  This is one of the main halls in Shuanglin Temple.  Sakyamuni is the title of the Buddha. More than 200 scultpures combined with mountains, stones and buildings in shallow and deep relief tells the life story of the Buddha.
the Hall of Sakyamuni

the Hall of Sakyamuni

A plaque written with four bold Chinese characters hanging over the entrance to the Hall of Sakyamuni.
A plaque written with four bold Chinese characters hanging over the entrance to the Hall of Sakyamuni.

A plaque written with four bold Chinese characters hanging over the entrance to the Hall of Sakyamuni.

Two dragon head atop the each side the roof ridge of the Hall
Two dragon head atop the each side the roof ridge of the Hall

Two dragon head atop the each side the roof ridge of the Hall

North of Sakyamuni Hall is the second courtyard formed by the Precious Hall of Mahavira and other two side halls. The Precious Hall of Mahavira is the tallest building in the temple. The clay sculptures of the welcoming buddha and  three main buddhas and the frescoes were made in Ming Dynasty ( 1368 – 1644 ).
the Precious Hall of Mahavira

the Precious Hall of Mahavira

A plaque written with four bold Chinese characters of the Precious Hall of Mahavira hanging over the entrance to the Hall.
A plaque written with four bold Chinese characters of the Precious Hall of Mahavira hanging over the entrance to the Hall.

A plaque written with four bold Chinese characters of the Precious Hall of Mahavira hanging over the entrance to the Hall.

Yellow Dragons and Buddhist figures atop the roof of the Precious Hall of Mahavira
Yellow Dragons and Buddhist figures atop the roof of the Precious Hall of Mahavira

Yellow Dragons and Buddhist figures atop the roof of the Precious Hall of Mahavira

North of the the Precious Hall of Mahavira is the third courtyard formed by the Hall of Fertility Goddess. This hall was originally built during the reign of Emperor Zhengde ( 1506 – 1521 ). The present sculptures were made in Qing Dynasty ( 1368 – 1644 ) depicting wemen praying for children.
the Hall of Fertility Goddess

the Hall of Fertility Goddess

A group of elephants and dragon heads atop the roof ridge of the Hall of Fertility Goddess
A group of elephants and dragon heads atop the roof ridge of the Hall of Fertility Goddess

A group of elephants and dragon heads atop the roof ridge of the Hall of Fertility Goddess

Any questions, just drop a line.