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Xizhou, the Museum of Bai Architecture

 
 
To know a nationality, starts from its architecture, to know a nationality within the shortest time, see the places they dwell in. Architectures epitomize a nationality's culture, ethics, morality, philosophy, customs, taboos, aesthetic value and taste,ect. Thus, no matter you are a professional architecture expert or just a traveler, it will reveal huge information beyond your expectation. Nourished by the aerial Mount Cangshan and the luring Erhai Lake, Bai people, one of the most innocent ethnic minorities on earth, has absorbed the essence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism which prevail, thrive and co-exist harmonically in center China and fostered a new discipline of architecture featuring stunning and poetic beauty. Boasting the most densely distributed Bai Residences, Xizhou is honored as "the Meseum of Bai Architecture". It is no exaggeration to say the Bai people's architecture is history preserved by wood, stones and bricks, poetry composed by the most fabulous sculptures, paintings, pointed eaves and wall sceens as well as philosophy highlighting the subtle relationship between man and nature. Its elaborate layout  serves one purpose: help the dwellers to live poetically and to connect with nature. Corridors, patios and courtyards are built to strengthen their bond, without which the residence will lose half of its charm and spirit.
 
 
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 Entry of Xizhou
 Spring comes first in Dali
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 Sima Faminly's Redidence built after the Si He Wu Tian Jin Pattern (Four houses form a enclosed space with 5 courtyards) The weathered and winding alley
 
Brief introduction of Xizhou & Bai People's Architecture
 
Xizhou, a legendary town of Nanzhao Kingdom(738-937), is the best place to see Bai people's residences. Located northwest of Dali and 34 km from Xiaguan, it greets Erhai Lake in the east and meets Mount Cangshan in the west, preserving its charm over the past millennium. In the past, it served as a key military stronghold as well as a prominent Buddhism and trade center of the Nanzhao Kingdom. As one of the origination place of Bai people's culture, it saw the earliest emergence of capitalism. Herbs, fabrics and teas were sold from here beyond the border. By now, its over 100 local residences of Ming and Qing dynasties scatter neatly along the aged stone alleys, with each courtyard embedded into the surroundings naturally and gracefully. Seen afar, it will impress you as a classic and elegant museum of local residences. With unique shapes and perfect structures, these residences breathe dignified air yet do not lack of aerial favor, and their classic and elegant outer appearances are instilled with free and wild spirit.

The practice of symmetrical layout and enclosed space typical of Chinese folk residences, has emerged as early as Qin and Han dynasties(221BC-220AD) and still dominates Xizhou. Due to different environment, history background and aesthetic value, Bai people develop their own architecture characteristics and expressions. Take Si He Yuan( Chinese quadrangles) in Beijing for instance, they usually has only one floor, while Xizhou has two or more floors. Besides, no matter it is main house or side house, there are always built in three. In the first floor, a well-decorated pathway will be built, which keeps the scorching sunshine away in day time and provides a cool place to enjoy the view of courtyard during night.

Bai residences boast various pattern, among them, San Fang Yi Zhao Bi( three houses form a U and one screen wall will fill in the gap and form a enclose space, with one courtyard in the middle) and Si He Wu Tianjin ( Four houses form enclosed space with five patios) are most popular. On interesting phenomenon here is that not every family can build their houses at will. Screen wall, a sign of knowledge and status, is a priviledge for those families produced famous scholar(s) or renowned personage.
 
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Wall Screen features fabulous traditional paintings with auspicious meanings, it is opposite to the main house and the first place receive sunshine

  
Main Residences to see in Xizhou
 
Among the substantial residences here, over 30 courtyards include Seven Inch Book Mansion(Qi Chi Shu Lou) of Ming dyansty, Yang Yuan Courtyard and Zhao Yan Jun Courtyard of Qing dynasty as well as Yan Zizhen Courtyard of early 20th century, are most representative.

Located in No.8, Dajie Alley, Seven Inch Book Mansion was fashioned after the "San Fang Yi Zhao Bi" pattern around the year 1526. Except the wood study house which was restored several times during Qing dynasty, the rest preserves their original look of Ming dynasty.

The morality of Confucianism finds the fullest expression in Yang Yuan Courtyard, a masterpiece of Si He Wu Tianjin ( Four houses form enclosed space with five patios).

Yan Zizhen Courtyard embodies the two layouts mentioned above, and is connected by pathways. It is the key architecture complex in Xizhou and is under good protection.
 
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Yan Zizhen Courtyard or Yan Family's Residential House in Dali Xizhou: it combines two most popular  layouts of Bai People's architecture
 
 
Features of Bai Architecture

Bai people's architecture enjoys significant status in the kingdom of Chinese architecture. Except its classic and elegance air as well as practical uses, it is especially famous for the marvelous wood, stone and brick sculptures . Among them, wood and marble sculpture, in particular, are most renowned. Since Ming and Qing dynasty, many folk masters were summoned to Beijing to work there. Marble, in Chinese Da Li shi, is named after Dali, a place which produces the top quality marble. The local sculptors seem possess some magical power, no matter how ordinary the marble stones are, they can transform them into the most unbelievable artworks.

Differ with royal architectures such as Forbidden City characterized by magnificent air, grand scale and eye-dazzling color, Bai people's residence focuses on exquisiteness and romantic flavor. Thus, it is more tender, relaxing, graceful and shares more close affinity to nature. Absorbing various culture, it interprests architecture in a most fatastic way. Small in scale, it is full of surprises.
 
 
 
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Bai architecture still preserves the essence of traditional chinese cultureSan Fang Yi Zhao Bi Layout( three houses form U and the Screen wall completes the whole scene.)
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Courtyard with delicate wood sculpturesPointed Eaves, fabulous paintings


Notice: all those residences will be closed after 18:00pm.

    Admission Fee: 10RMB. If you want to see tea ceremony, singing and dancing, it will charge50RMB
 
 
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