Shanghai - Old Embassy and Gardens - (50+ low res pictures) Dec 20, 2019 15:35:44 GMT -5 rockpickerforever, spiritstone, and 5 more like this
Post by NevadaBill on Dec 20, 2019 15:35:44 GMT -5
I spent most of October in China's Shanghai region.
And while I could probably create many threads with the 2000 or so pictures I took, I thought I would focus on a small topic which doesn't get much attention.
This will be about large private residences and gardens belonging to the old embassy officials, or people of power, which I had a chance to visit.
Rather than a video narration I just thought I would show the pictures, and tell a little about them. I hope I don't bore everyone with stuff here, so I will keep the commentary to a minimum, which will make it easier to digest all of this topic.
The region that we will be in, are covered by this map. Most basic tours will cover this area. We will be in Wuxi, and Suzhou.
The first is a complex of buildings in Wuxi, called Xuejia Garden, which is a former residence built by a powerful official, who was ambassador to European countries.
At one time, this was the most massive structure around, but these days it is dwarfed by the city buildings all around.
The building was designed to hold the mans entire family, including all childrens families, support staff (guards, cooks, maintenance, finance, etc).
These large buildings were not tall in size, and I have not seen one that was more than 2 floors tall.
But at the time, these were more than homes. There were surrounded by tall walls like a fortress, with guards, and some members of the family (wives) rarely left the property.
So it was self contained, and mostly self sustained. The interior and exterior (courtyards) had to be pleasing to the eye, so that those (like the many wives), who mostly never left, were content in their environment.
Covering a few dozen acres often, there were about 10 of these homes found within the major area (such as the Shanghai area on the map).
The buildings needed to serve all purposes, such as entertaining visiting foreign dignitaries.
Notice the ugly rock statues on the right in above picture. I will get in to those later.
China is a country largely bound together by large blocks of stone. I could do another documentry on this some time, but it is important that stone is carried in to the private residences as well.
So, you can start to see the walkways, and architecture framed by much stone works as well. We will see more of this.
The rest is mostly all wood. The roof structures (such as the little crown in the picture above) are heavy wood and concrete creations, and so the wood beams needed to support such weight.
Notice another one of those oddly shaped rocks, in the picture
These types of rocks are all natural, and no carving is done. They are prized, and found in all temples, and buildings (such as imperial palace gardens, etc) of importance. I think they are ugly. But they are rare and prized.
The woodwork is complex. Each of these houses has their own styles of woodwork.
Also, the Bonzai looking trees and bushes are decoratively spread throughout the buildings. The pillar accents are unique to the region.
Inside, it is all hard wood, and I cannot detect any insulation. Other than concrete. These must have been really difficult places to live when the temperature went down.
Dining areas, and meeting areas are many. You could see arches like the above, or wooden furniture of such, throughout the buildings in the complex.
All buildings for the most part are under one roof.
The officials had their own collections of gifts or expensive arts which were personal to them. Many large rooms like this can be found in some cases.
Just as you would at home, these were often openly displayed in cases, hutches and on tables.
This little guy is about two feet long. There are all types of stone carvings.
Some of the Jade is rather amazing, really. Even if they had electronics or dremel tools, I cannot imagine how someone would have the patience to carve out something this detailed in Jade.
Other arts are less fancy, but contain whimsical types of scenes, like this:
Look at the strange colorful lion-like animals that some of them are riding. Crazy looking things. I am not sure who the female Buddha looking person is in the middle.
Other hand carved, period pieces decorate the area. I like these, because they are likely the actual types of outfits that some people wore during ceremonies or celebrations.
Again, the wood carving is all over.
These were a couple of some of the many silk outfits adorned by the owners themselves.
The headpiece looks pretty interesting. But I can't say that any of those gems are real. They look plastic. But the headpiece is pretty grand looking.
Different rooms, serving different purposes. This one was for meetings and official gatherings.
There are certainly some pretty important looking chairs around.
Notice the stone inlay on the chairs, and again on the cabinet piece of the previous picture.
This turns out to be real stone. I would bet that it is in the "marble" family, but I couldn't ask or be sure. I like how the whole set was carved and created the same.
We heard music while walking around, and much later we came across some musicians. I thought the music was from a speaker system, but instead it was a live group. Here is a short video.
I hope that the video link works. It is possible that these retirees are honoring the ancient residence by performing.
See this strange apparatus? This is used to carry the wives, if they ever left the building. That's right, some of them never left very often, if at all. If they did, they had to have 4 carriers of the sled, at least 1 guard, 1 finance person, and sometimes others. But the women's feet could not touch the ground to leave the residence complex.
Throughout the maze of buildings, I kept having to step over things. It turns out that these threshholds are deliberately installed all over the house.
See the area where you step over? The taller the step, the more important the government official was.
Again, the insides of the halls, and isles between buildings are all decorated.
Everything is made to look as if it belongs in just that spot.
Some of this is only hundreds of years old, and not thousands. Most of these buildings were torn down by locals, after the Chairman Mao turned the country over. (that is a whole other discussion).
Again, I started to turn my attention towards the stone work in the courtyards and pathways which started to lead towards the garden areas of the complex.
More nice stonework, ugly rocks (which they think are pretty), and decor.
Here is a look at a couple more that I snapped pictures of.
Now, if there are imperfectins in the walkways, such as rocks which came loose over the years, it turns out the the modern craftsman of the region do not have the material, or ability to recreate the repair. It is often clumbsily done, using more crude rocks, and modern cements.
The garden complexes (multiple) had to be pleasing to the many. For some, this was about all they got to see, as they did not venture often (or far) beyond the walls of the complex.
Any time the family took on more members (weddings, additional family members), there were other buildings erected to house them in their own separate areas.
Elaborate terraces were built, with simple peace in mind.
This picture would be more beautiful, if they had not just recently drained this pond in order to repair an area. During our visit.
We visited a couple of these older houses. One was in Suzhou (pronounced Soo-Joe).
Suzhou is a region which has vast water channels throughout the city. Water transportation was a big thing.
One residence was called the "Couple's Garden Retreat". It shared a lot of elements with the residence in Wuxi (pronounced Woo-See).
The craftsmanship of the buildings, terraces, gardens and residence were unique to the region.
Looking in many ways quite different to other official residences.
At the rear of this building complex (which was mostly surrounded by water), we were taken to the water "motor pool", and boarded for a water tour of the portion of the city.
It is easy to become immersed in the whole experience, even though you know that the whole city is built so tightly around, and modern day life is taking place now.
But for a while you are transported back to a simpler period of time. A slower time, when the pulse of the nation was not so quickened as it is now.
Much of the interpretation of these pictures was handled by my wife, as our guide on this tour (and others), only spoke the local dialects (usually based on Mandarin or Cantonese). So, I apologize for any mistakes or inaccuracies I might have made.
Thank you for coming along!