Du Fu's Thatched Cottage, Chengdu
Du Fu is one of China's best loved poets, and his simple, elegant prose has charmed the Chinese people down the ages. Perhaps his most famous period was when he lived, for a brief time, in a thatched cottage near Chengdu. His poems of that time are full of the ordinary life of Chinese farmers and rural people. The cottage figures in a number of his works, meaning it has become probably the most famous commoner's house in the entire country.
In 2001, archaeologists - and archaeology is particularly strong in Sichuan - discovered the remains of what is extremely likely to have been the original cottage. After excavation, it was protected from the elements by an elegant post-modern museum hall. The design and Tang era collection along the gallery of this hall are particularly well designed and lit - Sichuan is also strong on museum design!
We also found that the staff - far from the usual flippant, bored and uninterested flunkies staffing many Chinese museums - were an absolute pleasure to meet; all were keen to talk about Du Fu and were the epitome of what a curator should be: bright, happy and extremely passionate about "their place".
The Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum as the entire park is now billed is one of the highlights of Chengdu, even if museums, history and culture are not your thing; the thick woods and stands of bamboo, the random paths and the dark pools make this one of the best parks in the whole of China if not the world. If it's peace, calm and reflection that you seek, this park could hold your inattention all day long.
Although the archaeological discovery should be the prime attraction, for many the centre of the visit is the replica of Du Fu's cottage. This has an interesting history, as older guide books (and some published after 2001) present it, rather disingenuously, as "Du Fu's cottage" rather than a replica. This lead to the cottage being categorised as a state-protected relic. So what is the situation now that they have found the real McCoy? Well, a suitably Chinese solution; the state-protection vaguely extends to "the house" without being specific. Perhaps ironically, in other countries the difference wouldn't be an issue because there is a wider interpretation of "cultural heritage" that includes the concept of setting and landscape, but China's Cultural Heritage Law is very specific in its definitions. In the Du Fu Thatched Cottage situation it's all a mott point because both sit inside the park, but in many other cases, the classification of replicas creates a loophole whereby real heritage could be built over. Interestingly, elsewhere in the park, the discovery of the original foundations of a pagoda did not stop the authorities from constructing a replica right on top of them; they merely rotated the building 22.5 degrees so that people can see the foundations. At least this is an improvement on a period not so long ago when the foundations would probably have been removed altogether. China is learning that it is important to be clear about what is a replica and what is not, and although the whole concept of authenticity remains a difficult debate in east Asia, at least that debate is now happening. With it comes discussion about context, setting and the intangible heritage and the role of today's society in helping to determine heritage.
DU FU CAO TANG - Thatched Cottage of Du Fu.
Du Fu (712-770) is one of the most famous Tang Dynasty poet. His own disappointments in not getting a ministerial post led him to notice the wide differences between the upper class & the ordinary people which then inspired him to write poems about the sufferings of the poor.
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Du Fu (712-770) was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty. Du Fu's Thatched Cottage Museum is a 24-acre park and museum in his honour to the west of the city centre. In 759 Du Fu moved to Chengdu, built a thatched hut near the Flower Rinsing Creek and lived there for four years. The "thatched hut" period was the peak of Du Fu's creativity. He wrote two hundred and forty poems, among them: "My Thatched Hut was torn apart by Autumn Wind" and "The Prime Minister of Shu". The original thatched hut built by Du Fu was destroyed. The key buildings in the Du Fu Cao Tang Park were constructed in the early 16th century during the Ming dynasty and extensively renovated in 1811 during the Qing dynasty. A reconstructed thatched hut partitioned into a study, a bedroom and kitchen, recreated the living and working environment of Du Fu's time.
Open: 7:30am-7pm. Admission: Y60.
But back to Du Fu.......
The centre of the park is filled with largely contemporary, but sympathetic, Qing-style pavilions used for interpretation, a teahouse, shops and galleries. To the east are quiet gardens and the pagoda, while to the east are the wooded gardens, the replica of the Thatched Cottage and the newly discovered original at the back of the park. I would highly recommend entering the park through the southern or main entrances, which requires a long walk from the road - again through parkland. Taxi drivers will drop most visitors at the northern gate, which tends to put everything into reverse - it is useful seeing the interpretative displays before the cottage.
The beauty of this park is partly that you end up getting lost and suddenly discovering quiet places, silent pools and panoramas open before you.
The park seems to allow free entry to students and children - again unusual.
I didn't really pay attention on Du Fu's cottage or on the information about him, but, as we just got of the airplane, it was really relaxing to walk around in the parc or garden around the cottage. The weather was nice, the trees were green, the flowers were blossoming and it was absolutely calm and quiet here. Nice!
These are some of the relics that they've unearthed from a few of the wells that once surrounded Du Fu's (712-770, a prominent Chinese poet) actual thatched cottage. The site is now enclosed under a building and you can walk around it and look down upon it plus view the finds.
Open: 7:30am-7pm. Admission: Y60.
There's lots to see in Chengdu but don't miss out on the famous poet 'Du Fu's' park. (Kind of like a park).
I spent an afternoon there just wandering around, enjoying the birds and peeking into some of Du Fu's old residences. If you're into amazingly peaceful and serene walks, like i am, and you're into learning all about a legendary human being...step into Du Fu's park and you'll walk out stress-free.
This is the site of Du Fu's (712-770, a prominent Chinese poet) actual thatched cottage which was discovered in 2001 after reproducing what they thought it would've looked like in a reconstructed cottage nearby.
It's ok if you are not familiar with the poems of Du Fu. Other than learning abit more about Du Fu, the scenary is pretty nice as well. I'm not sure if this place gets crowded and noisy during other seasons, but in the winter, there is this sense of tranquil that fills the air. Especially relaxing to sit down for a cup of tea in the teahouse.
One of China's greatest classical poets lived and composed his poetry here around the year 700 A.D., during the Tang Dynasty. His former home became a shrine three hundred years later. Paintings, landscape designs and displays are calculated to evoke the moods of Du Fu's poems.
Former residence of Du Fu, the poet.
The compound is huge with lots to see & explore. Give it at least 3 hours for a tour of the entire place.
If your Chinese is good, try to comprehend Du Fu's poems.
Some of his most famous are: The Chariots Go Forth to War, War, The Fireflies & The Parrot.