Zhujiayu Village: An Example of Northern Chinese Village

Zhujiayu village is located in Zhangqiu, about 45 km to the east of Jinan, capital of Shandong province. Lying in a valley surrounded by green mountains, Zhujiayu is a rustic holiday destination. With a population of only 2,000 even in its prime time, the 600-year-old isolated village is renowned for the preservation of its historical buildings dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties.

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(The village is renowned for the preservation of its historical buildings dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties.)

Zhujiayu is divided into old and new village, which is encircled by a huge ancient wall built with vast rocks. When you enter into the old village through an arched doorway, numerous traditional buildings greet you against the pleasant scenery of the background mountains. Walking through the thoroughfare you would feel as if you were back in ancient times.

Because of the local geology, the buildings in the old village are mostly built from stones and rocks from its nearby mountains. There are about 300 residential houses, temples, pavilions, bridges and courtyards from the Ming and Qing dynasties perched on mountainside, surrounded by endless forests, fields coated with blooming flowers. Most buildings are only one or two stories high. Although some of houses look shabby and the paint has faded, you can still feel the village’s former glory from the exquisite carvings on the windows and roofs.

Rivers and creeks flow down from the surrounding mountains, winding through the whole village. Owing to this, more than 90 quaint stone bridges have been built during the past centuries, each with different design and style. Among them, the well-preserved Zhaojia Bridge dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) stands out. The single-arched bridge is about 5 meters high and is completely made of natural stones. It is composed of two levels of roads, one on top of the other.

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( The single-arched bridge is about 5 meters high and is completely made of natural stones.)

The two temples in the village are special because most temples in rural areas are places for worshipping the god of wealth, or Guanyin, the goddess of mercy. But these two temples, which are said to be built in the late Qing Dynasty, one houses the statue of Wenchang and the other, statue of Kuixing – both considered the gods of literature in Chinese mythology.

Education has long been valued in Zhujiayu, judging from the number of sishu or old-style private school in the village. There used to be as many as 17 sishu, and the first female-only school in Shandong province. One of the sishu of the Qing Dynasty is still there in the village. The main building, comprising a bedroom, a study room and a kitchen, remains in good condition, but a two-story hall which used to store books looks dilapidated.

The tutor, Zhu Fengyin, was rated as Jinshi, a successful candidate at an imperial examination during the reign of the Qing emperor of Guangxu. A tablet inscribed by the emperor to praise his talents is still hung on the wall.

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(The 94-year-old Ma Yuying lives in the simple house.)

Zhu’s 94-year-old granddaughter-in-law, Ma Yuying, still lives in the simple house. Her sons have tried persuading her to live with them in the city center, but she prefers village life. Like Ma, many of the elderly in the village lead a traditional lifestyle. They grow peanut and Chinese walnut on the mountains, process grains with stone mill, and cook with spring water. But most young and middle-aged people have moved to the big cities, leaving their houses empty.

Nowadays, many historic villages have given way to modernization, but Zhujiayu, with its labyrinth of narrow streets and ancient buildings, still conjures up an image of ancient China. It was rated as one of the 24 Famous Chinese Historical and Cultural Villages in 2005 by the Chinese government. Its natural and traditional ambience has already brought fame to Zhujiayu. The village has become a popular spot where more than 20 films and TV drama have been shot since 2008. A museum of antique architectural style is under construction, to showcase the history, culture and anecdotes of the village.

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(The Zhu Family ancestral hall built in the Qing Dynasty remains in good condition.)

Zhujiayu is a good place for some tranquility and to get in touch with nature. The best time to visit it is from April to October when the leaves change color and springs gush out from mountains. It will be more fun to have lunch in family restaurants run by local farmers.

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