I like history, but am not a great fan of many historical things like many in my family are, but I love to see the old villages and places where people engaged in everyday life from many years ago. Those kinds of historic replicas or original places show me about people and life. When Crescent (Yijun) asked me what I wanted to do that afternoon I asked him if we could see something old and historic. He must have heard me and Donna discuss this back home because he immediately said, “I know exactly where I want to take you! An old Willage!” I’m sure he meant Village, but he never could seem to say it properly. I wanted to snicker every time he said willage but I resisted… as best I could.
He spoke to his Baba and they took me to an old village called Langtao. It was a very interesting glimpse of the way many Chinese people lived a long time ago. The entrance to the city had a very large and magnificently ornate gate, very typical to the Chinese culture to have a wall around the complex, in this case the entire old city. Once we got inside the city gates there were several signs written in Chinese and English to explain what I was about to see and experience. If Donna had been with me she would have read every one of those signs before we moved on slowly through the village. I glanced at them and even read a few of them completely through, but I was much more interested in seeing the images of the village firsthand and then finding out more about the place after I saw what was before me. I actually found a website describing to me what I was about to see.
According to their website, Langtou Village is located at Tanbu Town. In the past, there was a large lake in the south of the village and the village was on a small hill near the lake, on which there were full of Lang grasses. As a result, the village was named Langtou Village. The village consists of three main areas, i.e. Eastern Langtou, Central Langtou and Western Langtou. Eastern Langtou is located next to Central Langtou and Western Langtou is separated from the other two villages by a small river called “Deep Pool”. Both Eastern Langtou and Central Langtou are about 210 meters wide and the Western Langtou is about 170 meters wide.
The surname of the village is Huang. In the last years of the Southern Song Dynasty, the ancestors moved from Zhuji Lane of Nanxiong County to Shenshan Town in the northern suburban district of Guangzhou, presently known as the Baiyun district. The Baiyun district is where Crescent and his family lived. Currently the total population of the village has reached 3000 people. There is a large field in front of the village. There are 3 half-moon-shaped pools. The litchi trees, Longan trees and Banyan trees grew beside the pools and along with plenty of towering Banyan trees and Kapok trees that seemed to embrace the entire village. The village has large a farmland acerage and a carp pond which connects to the Deep Pool in the west and the Bajiang River to the east. Thus it has natural, quiet, and peaceful feel to the whole area. It was visually beautiful.
The buildings in the village are well preserved and now destined to be a tourist site. According to some of the signage that was in both Chinese and English, there are 388 well-preserved black brick buildings built in Ming and Qing Dynasty, including 34 ancestral halls, bookrooms and academies and five blockhouses and gateways. Most of them were built in Qing dynasty and some of them were built in the Ming Dynasty. The general layout of the building is three rooms and three doors, or three rooms and two doors. The buildings are well decorated by high quality stone carving, brick carving, wood carving and plaster carving. There are 18 existing ancient lanes or streets. The names of the streets are scribed on the top of the gateway.
In 2010, Langtou Village was selected as the Characteristic Ancient Villages in Guangzhou. In 2012, it was awarded the title of "Historic and Cultural Village in Guangdong Province. This was such a perfect venue for me to see. It was spacious enough to get a good walk in as we walked around the lily filled lakes, yet small enough for us to see many of the buildings, streets and people in a rather short period of time.
Of course one of the main things I wanted to do was to take photographs. Not just any picture but travel photographs with Flat Stanley! As I pulled Flat Stanley out of my pocket I could almost see the other Chinese visitors turn to look at me. They were already looking at me because I was the only Caucasian person in the village, but even more so now they were looking at Flat Stanley as I held him up to various buildings and landmarks to get his photo in front of each landmark.
Flat and I ran across some children playing at a picnic table. We had stopped for some drinks and snacks and saw the children staring at Flat and me. I took Flat, (and Crescent) to their table and tried to converse with them the best I could. Flat was his usually… very quiet, but had a happy smile on his face.
Soon we walked by a restaurant, where the kitchen workers were coming outside to carry out meals or other food service functions. There was a girl that looked like she was about 12 or 13 that couldn’t keep her eyes off of me or Flat. I asked Crescent if he would help me introduce us. After a minute or so of language that went right over my head she stepped up to get her picture made with us. When we were finished she asked if Flat and I would come with her to meet her family? Me? Meet new people? That are from another culture in their work and home environments? Oh yeah, I live for moments like this. She motioned for me to follow her back inside to the kitchen area of the restaurant to meet the others. There was a lot of loud talking, chopping and cutting vegetables and a few woks sizzling with all sorts of delicious looking foods. They looked up in surprise and smiled at me but I think their questions were, “Who are you, and what are you doing in our kitchen?” After some smiles, handshakes and a few photos we left and continued on to our tour of the village.
When we had walked around until it felt like my legs would fall off, Crescent’s parents said they had one more place they wanted to take me, a tea market.
Steve Shaner, also known as Xie Yeye, is a professional story teller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.