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Flagpoles and Millstones


Text and photographs by Wang Ying

With the frantic pace of urbanization in China’s capital city, traditional siheyuan (residential quadrangles) and hutongs (narrow lanes) are becoming harder and harder to find in central Beijing. Many lovers of ancient architecture are now turning their eyes towards the suburbs, where some surrounding villages still preserve residences in the architectural style of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Shuiyu Village in suburban Beijing Municipality’s Fangshan District is one particularly good example worth visiting.

In 2004, a field survey of historical relics across Beijing caused the once-secluded mountain village to reveal itself to the outside world. Historically, merchants from Shanxi Province stopped there to rest on business tours to the capital. Today, the village features more than 100 preserved quadrangle residences from the Ming and Qing dynasties, which total more than 600 rooms. The ancient structures are distributed in an orderly fashion across the mountainside. Along with its classical homes, the village is also noted for old millstones and traditional flagpole performances, both examples of folk heritage that has been passed down over generations. In 2004, it was dubbed a municipal-level folk tourist village of Beijing. This year, it was nominated as one of Beijing’s Most Beautiful Villages.

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