This number one house in Guangdong, which once housed over 700 people, is now empty!144
On top of the mudflats along the South River in Xiba Village, Lian Tan Town, Yunfu City, Guangdong Province, the "Hometown of Chinese Folk Art", there is a unique building, the Guang Er Da House, built during the Jiaqing period of the Qing Dynasty. The Guang Er Da House is not really the largest house in Guangdong, but its scale is not small, and the local villagers call it an "ancient fortress of the Qing Dynasty". In fact, it was neither an aristocratic castle nor a military fortress, but an ordinary mansion for the people to live and work in.
The founder of the house, Qiu Guang Yi, was born in 1782 and died in 1871 at the age of 89, the second in line, and was known as Guang Er because of his baldness. This is why the house is called the 'Kwang II House' or 'Kwang Yi House'. It took him and his five sons 20 years to build the house. The house was first built during the Jiaqing period of the Qing Dynasty and is now nearly 200 years old.
The owner, Guang Yi, was originally a farmer who sold fried bean curd for a living. He lost his father when he was young and lived with his mother in a thatched roof. One year when the Nanjiang River flooded, the flood swept away the thatched house, and Kwang Er and his mother escaped by relying on two door panels, vowing to build a large house for his mother to live in. Later, having made a fortune from business, he built the house to protect himself from the threat of bandits and the flooding of the Nanjiang River. In this way, Guang Er Da Hao is also a building that embodies Chinese filial piety.
Although I was in Guangdong, I had never heard of the Guang Er Da Hao before, but I found out about it on the internet earlier this year when I read about the tour route "Guang Yi Da Hao" in the newspaper. I drove past it on this day and went there. I got off at the Lian Tan exit of the Guang Kun Expressway and went straight along with S352 for about 2km to the Xiba village in Lian Tan town. It turned out that the only sign beside the highway was also prostrate on the ground, and when I came to the front of the house, there was a completely faded sign that read "Guangdong No. 1 House".
I was about to go in when a junior high school student who was doing homework suddenly appeared out of nowhere and asked me to charge 10 yuan for a ticket.
The whole house is in a quadrangle, covering an area of 10 acres, with 136 rooms, surrounded by a one-metre thick fence, the highest point of which is 13 metres.
Although Guang Er Da House, which is known as the "No. 1 House in Guangdong", is also an ancient building with a history of nearly 200 years, it is basically in a state of disrepair and desolation.
The interior of the house is a greenish-grey fortress with five rooms and five entrances, including a sunning area, a hall, a storehouse and a living room, and the people inside were self-sufficient for months behind closed doors.
The humble sign still bears the remnants of the Cultural Revolution, during which more than 700 descendants of the Qiu clan from four production teams were said to have lived in the house.
Today, there is no longer a single inhabitant of the house, except for the occasional visitor like me.
There are stairs leading up to the roof of the house and a 30-50cm wide patrol path around the roof.
There must have been night patrols, so you can imagine the glory of this now dilapidated house in the past.
In addition to the roof patrol path, there were also a number of gunshot holes in the wall, making the house self-contained behind closed doors and difficult for robbers to enter.
The Kwong II House is fireproof, burglar-proof and flood-proof, making it one of the few large enclosures in China that combines all three functions.
Inside the Great House, Qing Yun Lane is a quadrangle with two corridors on each side.
The old stone mill still remains inside the house, but the mill has not been turned for many years.
Inside the house is an old double-eyed well with a green stone blocking the mouth to prevent children playing from falling into it.
With its tiered green and grey roof, the 200-year-old Guang Er Da Hao has fallen into disrepair and sunken.
The vibrant green bamboo has overtaken the old roof. It is said that Lin Wu, the 94-year-old second aunt of the fifth generation of the Khoo family, who married into the house at the age of 17, still lives alone in the Kwang II Great House.
The house is in a state of disrepair, with the mottled frescoes in the atrium being the only colour left.
The couplets on the shrine and the incense are probably the newest things in the house.
The brick and stone patio is covered in moss, and the sunlight shines through the grey roof to bring a ray of light into the darkness of the house.
The fine wooden windows are rare and well preserved, and everything here is so original.
Slogans and old production tools from the Cultural Revolution are everywhere.
The house seems to have been built in the middle of the last century.
Mao Zedong's "Old Three Pieces" was written on the front of the house, presumably for the production workers to study at all times during the Cultural Revolution.
If you look closely, you will find many doors that open on the first floor walls. I was a bit puzzled at first, but then I realised that these doors, which open in mid-air, were originally wooden staircases or wooden passages that connected the doors on the opposite side of the house.
After twenty minutes or so of wandering around the deep and secluded Guangdong's No.1 house, the Yu Nan Guang Er Da Hao, I did get a shock when I looked up and saw an old man in front of me. It turns out that although the Big House is no longer occupied, there are still some items stored inside the Big House by nearby villagers.
There are quite a few other old houses like this next to the Kwang II Big House, some of which are still inhabited, while others have fallen into disrepair.
It is said that at the end of 1938, a Japanese officer and more than 50 Japanese soldiers came to the front of the Big House. They first shook their heads in the face of the closed door and then ran sharply around the Big House. Afterwards, they fired a burst of gunfire into the air before leaving unhappily. The surrounding neighbourhood was ransacked by the Japanese. The villagers later learned that the Japanese did not dare to attack the house because they did not have heavy weapons and were afraid of the complicated terrain and mechanisms in the house.
With the development of urbanisation, China's rural population has decreased by 300 million people compared to 20 years ago, leaving more and more villages and old houses uninhabited. It is hoped that such valuable old houses can be restored to preserve some of the old memories.