Noilly Prattle: China – Winter 2016 (a thumbnail history of Shaxi)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

China – Winter 2016 (a thumbnail history of Shaxi)

women in traditional Bai dress -
outdoor theater on Shaxi square
     In the course of our second day in Shaxi, after roaming around the Friday markets, we wandered leisurely around the little town, visited the local temple on the town square and (on the same ticket) found ourselves in a little mueum backstage of the outdoor theater on the square.

Xingjiao Temple seen from the stage
 of the outdoor theater
       Xingjiao Temple is relatively recent, built during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 CE), is a symbol of the Buddhist culture of the area, while the theater across the square is related to Confusianism in, I suppose, the performances staged there.

      Xingjiao Temple is a rather small structure composed of three buildings separated by two courtyards. I thought it mostly interesting for its age, not being especially unique in other respects. The main hall, has five statues of Buddha showing various hand gestures--fairly common in Buddhist temples I've seen. I found the gardens quiet and relaxing. The ticket included access to the theater across the square which I was more interested in seeing since it was something I hadn't seen up close before.

courtyard garden Xingjiao Temple

five statues of Buddha

      Backstage, one simple little artifact caught my attention because of its color and remarkable state of preservation. It was a bronze sword dated 560 BCE. A wooden panel tells a little of the history of the area. Shaxi was one of the centers for the production of bronze in Yunnan during the Shang Dynasty (1300-1000 BCE) through the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE). Thanks to its location the Shaxi area became important for salt mining and the land route for the salt trade along the Tea and Salt Road during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).

560 BCE era bronze sword

ancestral shrine
       We also visited an old house, still privately owned and occupied, in various stages of decomposition, but all the more interesting for that fact. The old gentleman of the house made us feel welcome and acted as our guide and accepted the modest entrance fee. He was especially proud of an old altar on the second floor apparently dedicated to the memory of some ancestor. What impressed me the most, however, were the ancient kitchen with its few modern accouterments and the harmonious relationship among what appeared to be four generations of the family.

       Since the house was so old and in need of repair, I thought it would be interesting the give my pictures a "vintage" look so I decided to make some B&W and noir effects with my photographs when we got back to the Cato Inn and I could work on my computer.

old house gate

old house courtyard

old house entrance walk

old house kitchen

old house - bird cages?

old house - view from the second floor altar room

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