Remote village stays faithful to feng shui rules

Updated: 2015-12-11 08:00

By Sun Ye(China Daily)

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A few years ago, Guorong made it to the national list of "historical and cultural villages" largely as a diligent keeper of feng shui standards.

The village, in Shiqian county in Southwest China's Guizhou province, is set amid an entire range of unnamed mountains and a river. Its appearance, say feng shui practitioners, resembles that of a "turtle touching water".

A few centuries ago, a retired local official surnamed Zhou is said to have spotted the village from his passing boat and decided to stay back. His family led a happy life for generations, but the family ran into misfortune when some of its members went to live elsewhere. So, a male descendant returned to the village in his 60s and had three sons, re-establishing the family.

Now it is a village of some 1,000 people, with Zhou as the most common surname.

Zhu Liangde, a former head of the village, studied the terrain and its history to find feng shui influences more than a decade ago. He was made a county-level Party cadre after identifying cultural elements in the village that needed protection.

"That's my share of good luck from feng shui," Zhu says, as he walks a group of visitors along a road that's dotted with irregularly arranged houses.

Viewed from above, the layout of the houses, which are said to have been without turmoil for centuries, resembles the Chinese character shou (longevity), which is another piece of evidence of good feng shui, Zhu says.

Fertility and longevity, maybe. But the remote village is losing its younger generation to more developed places outside. Most elderly residents of Guorong grow yams and radishes for a living and offer endless trays of juicy radishes for refreshments to visitors. Their hearty laughter is also infectious.

The village is slowly trying to make tourism a source of income. But there are very few hotels here, the majority of which are small and aren't always open to guests. Electricity also becomes an issue at night, when lightbulbs and devices like TVs need to be turned on.

The village got a modern sewage system only in April, when its rugged roads were leveled.

Zhou Qixing, 67, a villager in the tourism business, says he refurbished his old house to create an eight-room guesthouse earlier this year.

The family's income has increased greatly in the past few months, he says, without giving figures.

Zhou Qian, a county cadre, was also dispatched to the village this spring to oversee cultural protection and the general development of Guorong.

"There are contradictions," she says. "The villagers don't want to live in their houses, however rare and well-protected."

The high-threshold houses from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) don't have modern conveniences. But the cost of renovation is beyond the means of the residents.

"Its traditions and the buildings must be kept in place," she says of the village's cultural and historical significance.

Zhou Qian has proposed to the county authorities that some of the village's residents be moved to a location nearby. New houses cost less than renovating old ones.

She also hopes the village's recent winning of a place among the country's "historical famous villages" could bring more money to improve residents' livelihoods.

More money and effective use of it could make the village what it wants to become - a popular, well-preserved destination for travelers interested in culture and tradition, she says.