Key Project for New Round of Gucuo Protection and Upgrading in Fuzhou:Restoration of the Ancestral Hall of Liang’s Family of Yongsheng
Reported by Wu Hui
April 26, 2020
FUZHOU, April 26 (Fuzhou Daily) – Although the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee originally scheduled in Fuzhou was postponed, the pace of related preparatory work has not ceased and the new round of “gucuo” (ancient houses) protection and upgrading project never stops even on weekends. Yesterday, the reporter came to Liangcuo historical and cultural block at Sanjiangkou to visit the Ancestral Hall of Liang’s Family of Yongsheng, a key monument protected at the provincial level which is now under restoration.
History:Zhu Xi (1130-1200, a famous Neo-Confucian thinker of the Southern Song Dynasty) once lectured here.
The reporter saw that scaffolding was already erected on the east, west, south, and north facades of the Ancestral Hall of Liang’s Family of Yongsheng, whose restoration started at the beginning of this month, and the construction staff stick to their posts on the construction site. In front of the ancestral hall, a stone monument reads “Monument Protected at the Fujian Provincial Level” set by Fujian provincial government in 2009 was particularly eye-catching. Lin Jianjun, head of Liangcuo historical and cultural block, said, “In Liangcuo historical and cultural block, there are 48 well-preserved ‘gucuo’, but the Ancestral Hall of Liang’s Family of Yongsheng is the only ancestral hall that has survived.”
The Ancestral Hall of Liang’s Family of Yongsheng was built as “Meijian Study” in the first year of Emperor Xiaozong’s reign of the Song Dynasty (1163) and Zhu Xi, a famous Neo-Confucian thinker, once lectured here. The ancestral hall, facing east, covers an area of 693 square meters. It consists of the private space in front of the ancestral hall, an entrance hall, a drama stage, a patio, a watchtower, and an altar hall and so on.
As introduced by Liang Zhenrong, a folklore expert in Fuzhou, Liangcuo was the dwelling place that Zhu Xi chose for his best friend Liang Rujia, and Zhu Xi also wrote down a plaque bearing “Yi Yan Tang (The Hall of Gift Swallow)” as a gift. The dwelling later became the very place for the ancestral hall of Liang’s family. The ancestral hall has been expanded and rebuilt many times, and the latest rebuilding was funded by the Liang’s family members in the 1980s.
Restoration:Overall layout and main frame remain unchanged.
The reporter saw at the construction site that the ancestral buildings were kept intact overall. However, brick buildings and toilets were added to the adjacent area, which damaged the west facade. Besides, the roof gutters were blocked due to disrepair, resulting in water accumulation in the cornice and damp walls. On the east facade, the wall plastering was partly hollow and peeling off, and part of the wall collapsed. The uneven foundation on the south gable caused the wall to crack. No repairs should be delayed.
As pointed out by the head of the project protection and restoration, on the premise of grasping sufficient reasons and retaining the original state of the monument, the buildings later added to the original ancestral hall and affecting its historical style would be removed during the repair, and the original spatial layout and appearance of the main building and courtyard would be restored as much as possible. At the same time, the illegally built or added walls and houses would be dismantled, the inner and outer walls would be restored, and the roof and damaged components shall be repaired by fully exposing the roof. He said, “We will try to retain its historical authenticity and integrity to the fullest possible extent to protect and demonstrate this important living cultural heritage.”
Conservation: All identified cultural relics shall be conserved.
On the east and west walls of the main entrance of the ancestral hall stood a pair of “white elephants”. After taking a closer look, the reporter found that the two elephants consisted of small white ceramic wine cups. “What an imagination,” exclaimed the reporter. Faced with such praise, Liang Zhenrong, who was born and grew up in Liangcuo, explained how the elephants came into being. “When the rebuilding started in the 1980s, the surface of the original elephants was already damaged. So each household of Liang’s family contributed a white wine cup to form the elephants in order to pay tribute and respect to our ancestors.” In this restoration, the elephants will be protected as they are.
It was found that there were many beautifully carved couplets on the stone pillars in the ancestral hall. Decorated with patterns, each couplet was embossed with relief figures, which mainly tells the “twenty-four stories of filial piety”. In order to protect the couplets in this restoration, the stone pillars had been enclosed with wooden strips for protection before the construction started.
It was observed that the construction personnel were using special materials to protect the four portraits on the gray panels on both sides of the altar hall. These paintings were drawn by Liang Guiyuan, descendent of Liang’s family and first-class national artist in the 1980s when the ancestral hall was rebuilt, representing such traits as “loyalty, filial piety, honesty, and justice”.
It was also learned that the “Yi Yan Tang” plaque autographed by Zhu Xi, “treasure” of the Ancestral Hall of Liang’s Family of Yongsheng, and the three square plaques bearing “Fu” (happiness) autographed by Emperor Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty among others, were also temporarily taken down, numbered and stored in a safe place. Once the restoration is completed, the plaques will be put back according to their numbers.
Liang Zhenrong narrated the stories related to the three “Fu” plaques. During the Qing Dynasty, Liang Zhangju, who once assumed the post of minister of imperial household, strongly advocated the ban on opium during his term as viceroy of Guangxi Province. He made outstanding political achievements and was deeply admired by the local people. Emperor Daoguang was so delighted that he wrote down five characters of “Fu” on the fifth day of the first lunar month in the 17th year of his reign as a recognition to Liang Zhangju. The plaques of five “Fu” means “more lands, more offspring, more talents, more happiness and longer lives”. After more than a hundred years, the gold plated plaques of “Fu” still remain intact. “Emperor Daoguang wrote five characters of ‘Fu’, but why were there only three plaques of ‘Fu’ in the Ancestral Hall of Liang’s Family of Yongsheng?” Regarding the question of the reporter, Liang Zhenrong answered, “The other two plaques of ‘Fu’ are hung in the Sub-Ancestral Hall of Liang’s Family in Changle.”