Guangzhou: Zhu Village

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Zhu (Pearl) Village is located in the Tianhe district of Guangzhou. It’s an urban village these days, but the roots get back to the Southern Song Dynasty. I never knew that there could be so much history to be found in the Tianhe district, as it seems so modern with expensive brand stores and high rises. Luckily I got a chance to write a small piece for a magazine and heard about the Zhu Village.

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You can take a metro to one of the stations marked in the map above and then continue with taxi. Or you can take a BRT bus and get off at the Zhu Cun (珠村) station. These busses all reach the village: B1B5B15B16B17B20B26 and B27.

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I visited Zhu Village two times, first for the magazine and then to experiense the Chinese Valentine’s Day that was on the 13th this month (7th day of the 7 month in the lunar calendar). You can click the map above to get a bigger version.

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The first steps into the village made me a bit sceptical, could there be anything ancient found here?

IMG_2965I do enjoy visiting urban villages too, excellent for exploring the daily lives of locals and migrant workers and taking photos of their everyday living.

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I even managed to get this cute dog to pose for me! I’m still shy to photograph people, even though that’s what I would really like to do. Sometimes people also refuse to be photographed and I’ve missed many great shots by being a bit too slow.

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It’s a bit hard to navigate inside the Pearl Village, but getting lost in the small alleys is also part of the urban village experience. I would advice you to arrange at least a few hours for strolling around.

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During my first few months in Guangzhou a Finnish girl asked me why I wanted to stay in Guangzhou. Why wouldn’t I move to Beijing where there is so much more history and culture. Well, we don’t have Forbidden city in here, but everyday living is also an important part of culture and these villages dating back to the emperors’ times are a piece of rich history as well.

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Culture isn’t just “high culture” like opera, plays, ballet, but it’s everything humans do. What you eat for breakfast, what kind of clothes you wear and what you watch from TV after work.

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If you are interested in the urban villages of Guangzhou, I recommend you to check Adam Robert Young’s photos. He used to live in Guangzhou and took such an amazing photos with interesting stories.

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There are many ancient sites inside Zhu Village, including 44 cultural relic buildings, 33 ancestral halls and 8 society temple altars. You might not be able to go inside to all of them, as old people are using them as poker and mahjong venues these days.

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The best time to visit Pearl Village is during the Chinese Valentine’s Day which will next time be on the 2nd day of August 2014. Before going though, you should familiarize your self with the ancient legend of the cowherd and the weaver girl.

Wikipedia tells us:

“The general tale is about a love story between Zhinu (the weaver girl) and Niulang (the cowherd).Their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River ( the Milky Way).Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day.”

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I read online that if a couple happen to fall in love with each other in Zhu Village, their romance will last for eternity. I saw many couples visiting the village, but according to Wikipedia Qixi Festival is important both to single and married.

“Young girls partake in worshiping the celestials (拜仙) during rituals. They make wishes for marrying someone who would be a good and loving husband.”

“The festival also held an importance for newly wed couples. The celebration stood symbol for a happy marriage and showed that the married woman was treasured by her new family.”

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The old temples and buildings were full of decorations during the festival. Miniature houses, people and all kinds of objects. Everything was also on sale and we heard one old lady saying: “They don’t buy anything, why to take so many photos!” My boyfriend explained that the locals had already celebrated the festival and this part was for the tourists to come and spend some money.

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A young couple taking a photo of them selves.

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In Guangzhou there can’t be a festival without food! We found all sorts of drinks and snacks for sell at the Qixi Square. It’s a bit hectic with all the sellers shouting their offers and different smells blending in together.

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During the Qixi or Chinese Valentine’s Day, the local villagers have a tradition to gather together for lunch. Tables and chairs were laid out in front of and inside of the biggest family temple. There was also a local TV station shooting and interviewing locals for the news.

Have you visited urban or ancient villages in Guangzhou or elsewhere in China?

  • Adam Robert Young

    Thanks for the link. I like the photo of the guy with cardboard on the back of his bike – there’s a nice symmetry there. Glad I discovered your blog.

    Keep it up,

    Adam

    [Reply]

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Adam!

    [Reply]