China is littered with ancient relics and structures that represent the country's 5,000-year history. Ancient villages hold a high standing among these historical gems. Towns and villages famous for their ancient residences include Zhouzhuang and Tongli in Jiangsu Province, Xidi Village in Anhui Province, Qiao Family Mansion in Shanxi Province, and the earth towers of the Hakkas in Fujian Province. Recently, in Le'an County, Jiangxi Province, a 1,000-year-old village has been discovered in a remote mountain village-Liukeng.
The village grew during the Five Dynasties period (907-960), flourished during the Song Dynasty (1206-1368), flourished again during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and declined again during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). All families in the village are surnamed Dong, and the villagers regard Dong Zhongshu, a great Confucian scholar of the Han Dynasty, as their first ancestor. The village has produced 32 jinshi, people who passed the highest imperial examinations; two zhuangyuan, or, Number One Scholar, the title given to the highest scorer on the imperial examinations; and more than 100 juren, people who passed the imperial examinations at the provincial level. Today, the village has nearly 800 families and 5,000 inhabitants. Some refer to the village as a "living fossil reflecting the changes of Chinese feudal society," a "museum of Chinese faming and intellectual civilization," and a "living specimen of the historical and cultural belt along the Yangtze River Valley."
Panoramic views of the village can be seen form the slopes of Donghua Mountain. From above, one can see village's remarkably well-planned layout. Liukeng has seven east-west lanes and one north-south thoroughfare. The roads in the village were paved with pebbles and lined with drainage ditches. Rainwater and sewage passed through these ditches to a long man-made lake, "Dragon Lake," which is linked to the Wujiang River. At the entrance of each lane stands a fortification-style gate tower. Originally, the gate towers were linked by walls. Liukeng's enclosed layout gives it an urban feel. The village's chessboard layout derives from the Tang Dynasty urban planning traditions. A dock sits along the bank of the Wujiang River.
More than 260 structures were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties, including watchtowers, ancestral temples, residences, stores, temples, archways, academies, stages, tombs, bridges, ponds, wells, pavilions, and pagodas. Many buildings display their date of construction, a useful yet rare phenomenon.
At the village entrance stands five tall granite pillars-the remains of the village's largest ancestral temple, the Dong Clan Ancestral Temple. It was built in 1536 during Emperor Jiajing's reign of the Ming Dynasty to worship Dong He, the founder of the village. The temple was rebuilt in 1586 during Emperor Wanli's reign during the Ming Dynasty, but was then burned down by warlords in 1927.
Zhuangyuan Tower, located in the northwestern corner of the village, was built by Dong Deyuan, a successful candidate in the imperial examinations, during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and rebuilt in 1860 during Qing Emperor Xianfeng's reign. The tower is the highest building in the village and is thus regarded as a landmark.
There is a narrow lane in the village, called "Ming-Qing Lane." The western side of the lane is lined with buildings of the Ming Dynasty, and the eastern side is lined with buildings of the Qing Dynasty. According to locals, the street is "one lane spanning two dynasties."
The village has many extensive residence compounds. The most representative is the "Dabindi Building Complex," comprised of seven linked residences. Locals call Dabindi a "village within a village." The ancient residences in the village are tall and spacious. Houses have small courtyards, and rooms rely on the courtyard for sunlight. Beneath residences is a stone discharge pond. When it rains, the rainwater flowing down the eaves empties into the pond.
The village has a well-preserved theater dating from the Qing Dynasty. The theater has hidden boxes for unmarried women.
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