Located at the western outskirts of Chengdu, adjacent to the Huanhua Xi (Flower Rinsing Creek), the Thatched Cottage of Du Fu was the former residence of Du Fu (712-770), a famous poet of the Tang dynasty. Today, the cottage is a renowned shrine to Chinese culture, and a commemorative museum with a combination of simple ancient architecture and elegant beautiful gardening.
Du Fu is one of the greatest poets in China and has been called the “Poet-Historian” and the “Poet-Sage” by Chinese critics. His poetry continues to be read today. In the winter of 759, Du Fu, together with his family, fled from Gansu to Sichuan members to get away from the An-Shi Rebellion. With the help of his friends and relatives, Du Fu built a thatched cottage named “Chengdu Thatched Cottage” where he lived for about four years and composed more than 240 poems, many of them regarded as the greatest in the Chinese literary canon.
After Du Fu left Chengdu, many reconstructions were made to the residence. The most important two renovations were in 1500 and 1811 which basically settled its present scale and layout. The structures lined one by one along the central axis are the Front Gate, Grand Lobby, Memorial of the Poet-Historian, Faggot Gate, and Gongbu Shrine, which are flanked by corridors and other auxiliary buildings. With winding stream, small bridge, leafy bamboos and trees, the site is noted for its solemnity, tranquility, and elegance.
In the Gongbu Shrine (“Gong Bu” being Du Fu’s official title), there are imposing statues of three Chinese poets: Du Fu, Huang Tingjian and Lu You (the latter two were also great poets in Chinese history).
To the east side of the Gongbu Shrine stands a thatch-roofed pavilion called Tablet Pavilion, which is the original site of Du Fu’s Cottage. The Tablet Pavilion, sheltering the stone tablet with the handwriting of “Shaoling Thatched Cottage”, has been the symbolic scenic spot of Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage as well as a famed sight in Chengdu. (“Shao Ling” was a name referred to Du Fu as well, the following generations honor the poet as “Du Shao Ling”.)
To the north of the Tablet Pavilion is the replica of the original thatched cottage, reconstructed in accordance with his poetic description and the style of Ming Dynasty. Standing in a shaded clearing, the Thatched Cottage of Du Fu shows an ancient, unadorned, classical and elegant architectural style, with the roofs thatched and the wall made of two layers of bamboo strip and spread on the surface with clay. The cottage is partitioned into a study, a bedroom and kitchen, recreating the living and working environment of Du Fu’s time. Around the house are bamboo fences and inside the fences are vegetable and herb plots.
The Hall of Great Poets (Da Ya Tang) is a modern exhibition hall where a 16 long by 4 meter tall mural painting portraying Du Fu’s life and scenes from his poems. There are also statues of twelve prominent Chinese poets on display, including Li Bai, a famous poet with the more romantic imagery of Du Fu’s contemporary.
Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage, which is now the Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum as well as an idyllic park, is many things – a memorial, a site of extreme beauty, and a heaven from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Address: 37 Qinghua Road, Chengdu.
English-speaking guides are available, as are English translations of Du Fu’s poems.
In the Du Fu Thatched Cottage Park, you will find one of the most famous photographs of Chairman Mao ever taken, with his hands clasped at the back and head tilted slightly to the left. This photo was taken in 1958 when he visited the Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage. Nowadays visitors like to emulate this famous pose when taking photos.