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Changting Page 2
Hakka Museum, Old Town, Hakka Maids

(Click Thumbnails for larger images)
Click for Changting Page 1

Click for Changting Page 3 (Hakka Cuisine and "Drinking Culture")
Click for Changting Page 4 (Changting--Lil' Red Religious Center)
Click for Changting Page 5 (Hakka Hamlet of Tufang)
Click for Changting Photo Album by Photographer "Babushka" (Great Photos of Hakka Festivals!)

“China’s two most beautiful small cities are Fenghuang in Hunan, and Changting in Fujian.” Rewi Alley


Tingzhou Hakka Museum (汀洲客家博物馆) Babushka’s first stopHakka and Revolutionary History Museum was the Changting Museum, which through many Dynasties held the imperial examinations. On March 18, 1932, the First Congress of Workers, Peasants and Soldiers met here, and established the Fujian Soviet Government. In 1988 it became Changting’s Museum of Revolutionary History.

A central lane bisects the museum grounds and leads to the former Revolutionary headquarters in back. The two giant cypress trees on the right (唐代双柏—TangDai ShuangBai) date from the Tang Dynasty!

revolutionary painting in the Hakka MuseumThe Revolutionary History building to the right, and Hakka museum to the left, have excellent exhibits, but the captions are only in Chinese, so an interpreter helps.

The museum had dozens of enlarged photos, most by Babushka, of Hakka customs, festivals, and architecture, as well as exhibits of ancient artifacts and pottery, Hakka clothing, furniture, farming implements, intricate Hakka paper cuts, musical instruments, and funerary objects. Near the front was a taoguan: a large container in which they placed the dead.
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Homemade palm fiber rain cape made by local Hakka farmer A suona (Chinese horn) hung from the wall.Hakka clothing on display in Hakka museum Changting Hakka, like the Chongwu folk, sound them at funerals, but I think the shrill devices are more likely to wake the dead than comfort them.

Traditional Hakka clothing remains similar to that of the ancient Central plains dwellers. I especially liked the exotic raincapes woven from palm fibers. (Shops in Wuyi Mountain sell delightful miniatures 15 Yuan).

Walking the Sieve -- Hakka wedding ritualWalking the Sieve (过米筛, Guo Mishai) Several photos depicted unique Hakka wedding customs, like the bride stepping across the threshold onto two rice sieves, upon which are often painted Taiji (8 symbols). This filters out the bad luck, leaving only the good. Then she grabs a rooster, wrings its neck, and sprinkles the blood on the floor. So much for the rooster’s luck.

Another photo showed a young girl taking the ritualHakka ingenuity in designing practical agricultural equipment prenuptial bath in the clan’s round granite tub. I wondered if they waited until marriage to bathe. I also wondered how Babushka got this photo. Babushka confessed, “Until recently I dared not take credit for this photo because some people thought it was pornographic. But she wasn’t a bride—just a 12-year-old I paid a few cents to pose!”

The second hall had a large model under glass of the walled Hakka house in the nearby village of Tufang. Hakka walls in sparsely populated Changting were often only one story high. Some villages were only partially enclosed, the half circle gaining them the name “cow horn” villages. (Click Here to visit the Tufang village).
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Tang Dynasty Gate (Sanyuan Ge??? )   South Avenue 南大街 is opposite the museum, behind the Tang Dynasty gate and pavilion (三元阁 Sanyuan Ge). To the left of the ancient street was a long, high, stone firewall, and on both sides were ancient homes of aged granite block, with carved wooden posts and roofs of dark wooden beams and tiles. When we crossed the Wu (吴) family’s threshold, we stepped back in time 300 years.
I felt awkward just waltzing right in without knocking, but Babushka said, “No problem. The door was open.”

Babushka told the granny, “We’re just looking about.”
Granny Wu grinned, took my hand in hers, and intoned the time-honored litany, “You’ve come! Have some tea!” She scurried off to fire up the kettle, leaving us to tour her sprawling home at our leisure.

ancient courtyardThe ancient granite walls were as dark Ancient courtyard and ancient plantsand damp as tombstones in a shaded cemetery. The open courtyard was filled with massive, mossy granite planters containing miniature bamboo, azaleas, and an assortment of the carefully cultivated weeds that Chinese prescribe for aches and pains.

Ancient doorway inscriptions baffled me, but my Chinese companions could not decipher them either. The granite lintels were carved with dragons and phoenix wings, and wooden window frames boasted intricate designs (though one guest remarked that the wood was only plain pine).
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Antiques and Beanie Babies A cozy 9’ square courtyard had a flower-filled stone well in front of a small tree. Homemade old carvings above windowsbaskets hung from ornately carved wooden beams and iron wall hooks. A metal bucket was filled with either hog slop or the makings for tomorrow’s breakfast. I once had a peasant breakfast that was leftover from the previous day’s dinner and lunch. But as the Russian professor Vladimir Mylnikov told me, “Food is better when ingredients have time to get to know each other.”

A wooden pull cart was upended in a corner piled to the ceiling with dust covered antique furniture. Babushka pointed excitedly to the carvings in the stone lintel, and lamented the defacing of the wooden frames. Many peasants are selling off ancient carvings and furniture for a pittance to merchants who resell them for a small fortune in Xiamen and Shanghai. Old wooden home
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The demand is so great that some Is this so-called blue elephant beanie babie worth 4500  dollars or one dollar--or less? !factories mass-produce ‘antiques.’ But this is nothing new. Back in 1932, Malcolm F. Farley, longtime Fuzhou resident and expert on Chinese porcelain, wrote that antique porcelains were faked so well that Europe’s top museums had genuine pieces displayed right alongside copies.

“I know the real thing!” Or said an American, who showed me fifty antique silver coins he’d purchased for $1 each. “The silver alone is worth that much,” he said. “Even if only one in ten is real, just think…”

None were real. And they weren’t silver either.Old walls along the Ting River in Changting

A Beijing Silk Alley vendor selling ‘rare blue Beanie Baby elephants showed an American girl the $4,500 USD price in the glossy foreign collector’s catalog, and reluctantly parted with them for only $1 USD each. The girl gushed, “If just one is real, just think…”

They both seemed to have forgotten that Chinese have been doing business for at least 5,018 years. They know what they’re doing. If they sell a diamond ring for a dime, you can bet your Beanie Babie it’s only worth ten cents.

Antique Chinese “How old is your house?” I asked.Walking back in time
Granny shrugged. “Don’t know. Older than me though.”
Granny Wu was ancient, but nowhere near the 300 years of this house. Then again, locals say the clean air and pure water gives Changtai folk unusual longevity. Changtai has at least 7 people over 100 years old.

A red ancestral shelf held an urn stuffed with incense sticks, two vases, and two empty glass idol cases. Evidently the idols were idling elsewhere. Above the shelf was a yellowed poster of the cheery god of longevity—the bald guy with a bulging forehead, a staff in one hand and a peach in the other, and Rudolph the reindeer by his side.
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Make Peace, not War! Beside the ancestral photo were stacks of small rectangular papers with a picture of a Chinese boy and girl and the characters “和平” (“Peace”). “For worship?” I asked.Peace Brand Matchbox made since 1953 hoping for peace between America and Korea

Granny Wu chuckled. They were for matchbox covers. A local artist hoping for peace between America and Korea designed them back in 1953.

This family has many undertakings. A bundle of sticks were being used to make miniature umbrellas (perhaps for miniature thundershowers).

Friend for life—and then some!Ancestor shelf in 300 year old wooden Changting home An ancestor’s name had been carefully written on a framed sheet of aged red paper. This was common in the old days when people could not afford an artist or a photographer. Nowadays, photos are fairly common, but still expensive for some families—hence a suggestion: photograph their grandparents and mail them an 8x10. They’ll treasure the photo, and you’ll have a friend for life (and perhaps in the afterlife as well).
After a brief tea break, we left the Wu home from the rear and entered the courtyard of yet another old granite home. The inhabitants smiled and welcomed us, though the wife casually padlocked one door. No matter. We wandered around the rest of their home freely. A man squatting in the tiled courtyard, gutting a large fish, grinned and said, “You’ve come! Have some tea!”

Uncandid Camera A lady on South Avenue was deep frying shredded radish in a shell of crispy potato powder. Babushka bought half a dozen and said, “Eat them while they’re hot!” They burned like hot coals all the way down!

I asked our sidewalk chef to let me photograph her and she blushed and ran inside the house. Babushka chided me. “Don’t ask! They’re too shy to say yes. Just take the photos!”
Eventually my prey reappeared and I stole a quick photo.

Babushka laughed. “Hiyah! You’re shyer than they are!”
Homemade white paper lanterns hung from the eaves of a neighboring home. Someone had died there recently. Probably a red-hot fried radish ball burned right through their gullet.
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The 300 year old house at #105 South Street (南大街105号), had several grandpas on bamboo stools but they shuffled out of camera range so hastily that I doubt even the ebullient Babushka could have nabbed a photo. But a young couple stood their ground and welcomed us with, “You’ve come! Have some tea.”
I wondered if Chinese memorize a “Little Red Book of Greetings?”With visions of government renovation funds landing in his lap, he said "Here!  Take the photo from this angle!"

Better Days Ornate carved lintels, posts and cross beams lay rotting on the courtyard floor. The owner complained, “This is a designated historical site, but they don’t give us a penny to help repair or restore it.” But when I photographed a fallen column he said, “Why photograph that?”
“People need to know of the need before they’ll help,” I said.
“Yes, that’s right!” he exclaimed. “Here—take it from this angle.”
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Big Foot Hillbilly Witches The man pointed to a second-floorThis is all that a young hakka maiden saw until she married! upper room where they kept the young Hakka girls locked awaywooden balcony and said, “We used to keep Hakka maidens locked up there until they married. Would you like to see it?”
“Depends,” I said. “Any Hakka maidens still up there?”
We ascended the dark, narrow wooden stairwell to the tiny chamber where girls spent years looking at nothing but the sky, clouds and ancient tiled rooftops. But given the legendary beauty of Hakka maidens, I could understand their precautions!

“Second most beautiful in China!” an official solemnly said ofYoung changting beauties Changting’s Hakka maids (Kejia Meizi—客家美子). First place, he said, went to the lovely lasses of Gansu’s Mizhi Prefecture (甘肃省,米脂县). He claimed that Changting’s Hakka maids are more beautiful and have whiter skin than other girls because of the pure water and fresh air. I think fresh air is overrated. Besides, after seven years in Los Angeles, I’m hesitant to breathe anything I can’t see.

Of 200 girls in a national beauty pageant, 50 were from Changting, and 10, including the winner, were in the finals. Three top finalists were Changting museum guides (including my guide Miss Hong). To put my doubts to rest, Babushka showed me a photo of a beautiful Hakka farm girl and said excitedly, “She isn’t wearing any makeup! That’s all natural!”
I believed him. I saw a girl touting toothpaste in a department store. She was taller than I am, had a peaches and cream complexion, long thick hair, and a smile that could have sold enough “Darlie Toothpaste” to put every dentist in town out of business. No wonder Hakka men go to such lengths to win Hakka maidens’ hearts.
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Beautiful Hakka MaidenDemanding Dates! Pairs of Tufang Village men shoulder a 330-pound Pusa idol in a wooden cart, shoveling back and forth until one falls. At the end of the day, the winner gets the girl. And I thought American girls were demanding!330 Pounds, and last man standing wins a date with the beautiful hakka girl

Hakka women are beautiful, but unpretentious in dress, wearing cane hats with skirts of black cloth, and black clothing with minimal embroidery. In the old days, enemy soldiers often mistook them for soldiers and beat a hasty retreat. And probably a good thing. Like Hui’an Maids, Hakka girls are as tough as they are beautiful.

Hakka men never hankered after “China dolls” crippled for life with bound feet crammed into tiny 3 inch “lily slippers.” Hakka girls were expected to work in the fields and care for the homes while the men fought bandits, warlords, armies, and Proud young Hakka mother and childmothers-in-law.

The strength and level-headedness of Hakka women, whom Zeng Guo Fan called “Big foot hillbilly witches,” freed the men to scout out new territory, travel abroad, and settle most of Southeast Asia. So Hakka women are respected, and even worshipped. Successful Hakka the world over reunite in Changting every October 28th and pay homage to the Hakka Mother statue—a big-footed robust Hakka maid with a baby on her back. Erected in 1995 to symbolize the Ting River, she stands in a square (客家母亲园 Kejia Muqin Yuan) south of one of the old bridges and near the southern exit of the boisterous carpenter alley.
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Carpenter Alley (唐宋古街) lies beyond the Gujuan South GateOne of Changting's famous carpenters (门南郡古—Gujun Nanmen), bounded on the left by a red “China Welfare Lottery” sign and on the right by a café serving deep fried breakfast pastries and hot soymilk. The arch is guarded by a well-worn white cat with one green eye and one blue, and a “Don’t even think of it” expression.

Another of Changting's master carpentersI asked master woodcarver Zheng Bozhao (郑博昭) how he lumbered into this line of work. He said, “Education stopped during the Cultural Revolution, so as a teen I was sent to a rural factory for 3 years.” When Changting started it’s own woodcarving factory, Master Zheng jumped aboard. Now he has his own woodshop—chairman of the boards.

“Woodworking lets me be creative,” Zheng said. He pointed to wooden Buddhas and carved calligraphy. “It’s not just a job, but a hobby.”

He sounded like my Air Force recruiter!

“Will your children do this?” I asked.

“No way! One son already works in Guangdong province.”

Beyond the carpenter shops a tinsmith deftly fashioned pots and A tinsmith with great skill made pots and pans with snips and soldering ironpans with snips and a soldering iron. Another fellow repaired umbrellas. A middle-aged woman, baby strapped to her back, perched on a squat bamboo stool and sewed up leather shoes and cloth slippers. A bamboo craftsman made rocking chairs, stools, and steamers.

A sidewalk seamstress sewed while chatting amiably with half a dozen ladies sipping sea from the dainty thimble-sized clay cups so popular with Minnan folk, who have yet to learn the virtues of liter-sized American mugs.

At the end of carpenter alley a larger and livelier street Changting a mix of ancient and modern (this is the sort of ancient part!)assaulted eyes and ears with a riot of sights and sounds. The dizzying din included bike bells, honking trucks and taxis, official government sedans with their sick duck sirens, laughing children, and vendors shouting as if they were angry, but in fact simply saying, “Xigua! Yaobuyao? Huh? (“Watermelons! Want them or not? Huh?).

Click Here for Changting Page 3 "Hakka Wining and Dining"

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P.S. Don’t miss these great Changting Sites!

Source of the Ting River

Ancient Well (老古井Laogu Jing)
Changting’s oldest well, considered a miracle because it never dries up, whatever the conditions. On top of that, while Mao ZeDong lived in Changting, every morning he used the well to wash his face, brush his teeth, and clean his clothes (not necessarily in that order). And to make the well healthier, he brought in a well specialist, which I thought was a well-meaning gesture.

Tingzhou Hakka Research Institute (中国汀洲客家研究中心 Zhongguo Tingzhou Kejia Yanjiu Zhongxin)

Tingzhou Ancient City Wall (汀洲古城墙Tingzhou Gucheng Qiang)
Tang Dynasty, at least 1200 years old.

Dragon Hill against White Clouds (龙山白云—Longshan Baiyun) – the Jin Sha Temple.

Zhongshan Park and the Qiu Bai Pavilion (秋白亭 Qiubai Ting).
Every two-ox town in China has a Zhongshan Park (named after Sun Yat-sen, but called Lenin Park during the Soviet Chinese days). The Qiu Bai Pavilion is named after Qiu Bai, the young revolutionary martyr. To the rear of the Hakka Museum you can see where he was imprisoned, and where he was shot.

Hakka Girls. They’re everywhere. Please just take photos, not the girls.

Chaodou Rock’s Shuiyun Temple. The Buddha is said to have his back to tourists because he’s piqued that so few people repent and begin life anew.

Xiamen University’s Former Campus (厦门大学校本部旧址)

Click Here for Changting Page 3 "Hakka Wining and Dining"

A Xiamen University professor told me China had 5000 years of history but that was 18 years ago, so now its 5018 years of history.
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