The largest surviving ancient oyster shell wall in China, Doumen Green Hall, Zhuhai 126
Zhuhai, a special economic zone, is generally perceived as a young city, and it is true that the current Zhuhai district, Xiangzhou, is a seaside city that arose in the 1980s, but the Doumen and Jinwan districts in the western part of Zhuhai have a longer history, especially the Doumen district of Zhuhai, which is also one of the sixth batches of famous Chinese historical and cultural towns. Since it has been listed as a historical and cultural town, it means that the place is at least rich in humanities and history. In Doumen District, there is the old Doumen Street, a famous Chinese historical and cultural street, the ancient villages of Nanmen Township, Zhaojiazhuang, Qianwu Township, Netsan Village and Pai Shan Village, Doumen Township, the Huang Clan Ancestral Hall, the Huang Clan Ancestral Hall, the Green Hall, the Da Wang Gong Gong Gongzhu cliff carvings ...... the tomb of Zhang Shijie, the cliff carvings of the first stone gate in Wuyan Mountain, the Caixingge, and so on. In short, when you come to the Doumen District, you will find a completely different Zhuhai. Instead of the impressive skyscrapers and romantic seaside, there is an idyllic landscape, ancient villages and towns, traditional customs and cuisine. Since Doumen is very close to where I live, I have been to it many times on all my self-drive rides. The historical and cultural monuments in Doumen are the type of attractions that are not yet charged for, and those ancient villages and streets are still basically in a little-known state.
There are many ancient villages in the Doumen district, but if you want to see the unique oyster shell walls in the Pearl River Delta, you must go to Nanmen Village. Oyster shell walls were once a common form of architecture in the Pearl River Delta since the Ming Dynasty, but nowadays there are only a few of them, and the one as well preserved and as large as the Rochelle Hall in Nanmen Village is probably the only one in China.
In addition to its rich history and natural beauty, Doumen also has many culinary specialities, of which the roast meat of Dachikan village is an outstanding representative.
Nanmen Village is one of the most representative villages in the Chinese historical and cultural town of Doumen and was named one of the 'Ten Most Beautiful Villages of China' in 2014.
As I had ridden through Nanmen Village before, I came back to find that the tourist facilities had been improved, more cultural relics had been renovated and opened, and there were more tourists, but the same thing remained free.
Nanmen Village is a village with history. The village of Jixiazhuang was built by descendants of the Southern Song Dynasty royal family and nearly 90% of the villagers are descendants of Zhao Kuangmei, the Song Dynasty King of Wei.
The rhododendron and the Jixiazhuang are the two main attractions of Nanmen Village.
The three ancestral halls are the Ancestral Hall of the Zhao Clan, the Yifeng Ancestral Hall of the Zhao Clan and the Kunshan Ancestral Hall of the Zhao Clan.
The Kunshan Ancestral Hall was built in the 19th year of the Qing Dynasty (1893) and is the youngest of the three.
The Yifeng Zhao Gong Ancestral Hall was built in the late Ming Dynasty and restored in 1928.
It was built in the fifth year of the Ming dynasty (1454) and restored during the Qianlong period of the Qing dynasty. It was built by Zhao Long (Zhao Qingfeng), a 15th-generation descendant of Zhao Tingmei, the brother of Zhao Kuangyin, the Song Emperor, to honour his great-grandfather, Zhao Meinan (also known as Xueyin), a poet and ritualist of the Yuan dynasty.
More than 1,000 years have passed, and the people of the surname Zhao, who came from the imperial family of the Central Plains, have long been integrated into the land, speaking the Doumen language and bleeding royal blood.
The hall is located east to west, with three rooms and three entrances, symmetrical in its central axis, with a wing in the north and a wall at the back.
The couplets on the pillars and the tablets in the niches tell everyone who comes here that the descendants of the imperial family of the Zhao Song Dynasty lived here.
On the walls are portraits of the emperors of the Song dynasty. On previous visits, these ancestral halls were not open, so this was the first time I had been inside.
The largest, most complete and oldest surviving oyster shell wall in China is on the north and south-east walls of the rhododendron, which are all oyster shell walls except for the front.
These oyster shell walls, built in the Ming Dynasty, are still standing today, as they were built for their low cost, typhoon protection and warmth in winter and coolness in summer.
Nearly a million oyster shells were mixed with brown sugar, glutinous rice, vinegar and hulls to form a 65cm thick wall, which is still intact after more than 600 years.
I have seen ancient oyster shell walls in Panyu Daling Village and Shawan Ancient Town in the Pearl River Delta, but the one in Doumen Rongye Hall is undoubtedly the largest, with the most oyster shells and the most complete preservation I have seen so far.
The oyster shell wall is not only durable, warm in winter and cool in summer, and typhoon-proof, but also has a burglar-proof function, as the oyster shells are so uneven and uneven that if a burglar enters the courtyard in the dark, he will have his hands and feet cut.
In the Pearl River Delta region during the Ming and Qing dynasties, oyster shell walls would have been a relatively common building, but it is said that it may be due to the devastating destruction of a large number of oyster shell walls during the Kangxi relocation of the sea in the Qing dynasty, and it is estimated that few oyster shell walls were built afterwards, so such buildings are becoming increasingly rare.
Built-in the late Ming Dynasty, the Yifeng Zhao Gong Ancestral Hall is taller than the rhododendron and has a distinctive Lingnan grey carved roof.
The gold-painted wooden carvings on the roof beams are also very characteristic of the region, and I wonder if the story has anything to do with the Zhao Song royal family.
The Yifeng Zhao Gong Ancestral Hall, also known as Shishou Hall, is located to the south of Yeh Tang and is dedicated to Zhao Yifeng, the ninth ancestor of the Zhao clan from Nanmen Village.
In general, from north to south, from the old to the new, the aesthetic appeal of the three ancestral halls, namely the Ancestral Hall of the Zhao Clan, the Yifeng Zhao Ancestral Hall and the Kunshan Zhao Ancestral Hall, has gradually declined.
The Yat Fung Chiu Ancestral Hall in the middle was unfortunately restored in 1928 with the removal of the oyster shell walls, but the ironwork windows inside are still of some interest.
The southernmost ancestral hall, the Kunshan Zhao Gongsi, also known as the Shi De Hall, is dedicated to Zhao Kunshan, the ninth ancestor of the Zhao clan from Nanmen Village.
The two main attractions of Nanmen Village are the Rhydra Hall, which is the ancestral hall of the descendants of the Zhao Song dynasty, and the Jixia Village, which is the village where the descendants of the Zhao Song dynasty lived.
Shijiazhuang is very secluded, hidden by dense trees, and cannot be seen from outside the village. This small village, which is now over 200 years old, was built by descendants of the Zhao royal family and is also known as the Zhao Family Village, as all the people in the village are surnamed, Zhao.
In addition to the usual old houses and temples, Jixia Zhuang also has a private courtyard that was built more than 200 years ago and is considered the largest in South China. The river is 38 metres wide, 350 metres long and 2.5 metres deep, and it was a major project for the villagers to dig such an artificial river.
There were more than 10 officials in the imperial court, with the highest rank reaching the fourth grade, and there were also one military supervisor and one military candidate, five military students, four national students and two asylum seekers.
There are many more stories about Jixiazhuang or Zhaojiazhuang, which can be found in the local features database of the Doumen Library.
It was a very hot day, so the 3 yuan cup of sour plum soup from the farmer's house in Jixiazhuang was a great relief from the heat, and I was offered a refill after drinking it.
After walking through Nanmen Village, the old Doumen Street, a famous Chinese historical and cultural street is just 2km away and was still being paved with tiles when I was last here.
Doumen Old Street is a very short street, just 500 metres long. It was probably around 1850 that some religious people such as architects and priests from Macau and Canada often visited and lived in Doumen Town. Due to the rapid development of trade and commerce, the buildings in the old streets of the market town at that time could no longer meet the needs of development, so foreign merchants and rich local businessmen started to conceive of building streets and houses.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, more than 10 cloth shops, department stores, Chinese medicine shops, rice shops and money changers were built in the area. A Christian church was built, and a German-style two-storey church was built for the Catholics, making Doumen Old Street the only well-preserved ancient street in Zhuhai.
There are many great dishes in Doumen, but the Dachikan Village open fire barbecue, the intangible cultural heritage of Zhuhai, must be one of those not to be missed.
Fat Chai Keung has inherited his ancestral business and has been roasting geese and ribs in the village all his life, insisting on using lychee wood as firewood and cooking them in a rustic way. Perhaps it is this persistence that has made this rural restaurant the thriving business it is today.
There are no chain shops and no publicity. The delicious roast pork ribs, roast goose and barbecued pork are basically passed on by word of mouth, and all the roast flavours are cooked by Fat Chai Keung himself, so I guess this is his unique secret.
I've been to Doumen, Zhuhai, quite a few times, and the first few times were all cycling because it's perfect for cycling, not too many vehicles, fresh air, a watery countryside, some exciting food at all times of the year, and there are a lot of older villages in Doumen, but what's more attractive is that the monuments and attractions in Doumen, as well as the ancient villages, don't have to charge for the various tempting food, which is also most affordable, and there aren't too many tourists, whether it's Golden Week or holidays.