1. December 2018. My day wandering around Tongli Water Town had been an eventful one that had literally teleported me back to the days of ancient China. Picturesque canals and cobbled streets? Yup! 600-year-old Ming Dynasty shopping lanes? Uh, huh! Wrinkled old Chinese folk sittin’ doin’ nothin’? You know it! Another key part of the Tongli experience was its collection of historical wood and stone residences. Many of these buildings were the ancestral homes of notable local families, though with zero English language info it was often impossible to make any sense of what I was looking at. One old house that does supply foreign visitors with a narrative is Happy Farming Hall, a Ming Dynasty residence on Shangyuan Street.
2. December 2018. Happy Farming Hall is one of Tongli’s most impressive and best-preserved buildings. It was constructed by Zhu Xiang, an academic recluse of the Ming Dynasty. The garden features 200-year-old orange osmanthuses & 400-year old lacebark pine trees set around a large goldfish pond and stone bridge.
3. December 2018. Wander through Happy Farming Hall’s reception rooms and corridors and you’ll come across nine striking root carvings said to have been included in The Guinness Book of Record! Root carving is a traditional Chinese art form where distorted tree roots are twisted, sculpted and polished into artistic creations. This one is called Gold Bricks In Arms and may have been created by Zhu Xiang himself.
4. December 2018. The finest overview of Happy Farming Hall comes here from this second floor balcony. Just cross the stone bridge and head inside the main building up the stairs.
5. December 2018. Happy Farming Hall is a lot bigger than you initially realize when you enter. It’s actually possible to get a little lost as you explore the various corridors and hidden side chambers. Poking my head out of a balcony window, I looked down on this pretty little courtyard and started to wonder which way I needed to go to get back out onto Shangyuan Street. There are many ancient residences to check out in Tongli Water Town, but Happy Farming Hall is the biggest and most interesting, with English language commentary to boot.
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