Nine have red brick pagodas, the story of a 16-year-old girl widowed for 60 years 145
The pagoda, the most storytelling Chinese building. In ancient China, there were many kinds of pagodas, except for the temples, ancestral halls and tombs, which were used to divide the space, behind every other pagoda, there were figures of meritorious officials, righteous men, good people, filial sons, chaste women and martyred women, and they all contained the glory of one or several people's life. It is the echo of the ancient Chinese spirit, of morality. But there is one type of pagoda that we see today as a huge yoke around the neck of every living woman, so heavy that one cannot breathe: the pagoda of chastity.
During the Chinese New Year, while everyone was still in a happy New Year mood, I drove hundreds of miles to Zhanjiang, the southernmost city in mainland China, and then rolled over to a remote village, Jiu You. Outside the village, the road was under construction and dusty, and the road into the village was actually blocked with traffic, with hundreds of cars parked on both sides of the village road for some unknown event.
When I first saw this pagoda on the internet, I was a little surprised, as I had seen hundreds of ancient pagodas, both stone and wood, but never one made of red brick.
Don't think that a red-brick one is not a monument, this is a genuine Qing Dynasty pagoda, built-in 1842, 177 years ago and not even repaired.
The red-brick pagoda is located beside the ancient road in Jiu You, an ancient village with a history of more than 600 years, in Po Tou Town, Po Tou District, Zhanjiang City, Guangdong Province.
The pagoda of chastity and filial piety is located near the basketball court in the Jiu You village, next to the temple of Wen Wu.
In fact, if you look at the side of the Wenwu Temple you will see that it is also a red-brick building. Red-brick buildings are traditional buildings in the village, with a history of hundreds of years.
But the main reason I travelled hundreds of miles to this remote part of the Jiu You village was not to find the red brick building but to find out the story behind this pagoda.
The word "chastity and filial piety", especially the word "chastity", may seem simple today, but it has been a heavy shackle on the heads of Chinese women for nearly a thousand years of history.
Now a crumbling pagoda in the midst of the wilderness, it is the 'glory' of a young girl who spent a lifetime of loneliness.
The owner of the pagoda, Wu Dianxi, turned her life around at the age of 13 when she was still a young girl in ignorance.
In that year, a 15-year-old boy from Jiuyou village, Zhong Di De, took the triennial examination in Gaozhou and came first. The examiner was Wu Guosi, the father of the young girl, who saw that he was a brilliant writer and promised him his daughter, but it was not customary at the time for men and women to meet.
The 13-year-old girl was married to a 15-year-old boy who returned to his hometown to continue his studies and wait for the second examination three years later, which seems to have been a not too bad marriage.
After three years of hard study, Zhong Di De was 18 years old and his literary talent was even more impressive. When he saw the instructions, he was so resentful that he went home and died of a violent illness.
When she woke up, she put on her mourning clothes, took her little maid and went to the Zhong family to observe the morning.
At the age of 16, Wu Dianxi came to Jiuyou village and never left the house. She never left the house, spun for a living, was filial to her aunt and uncle, raised her heirs, and got along with her sisters-in-law.
After Wu Dianxi had passed his sixties, the surname Zhong proposed that the surname Wu be declared to the imperial court, and the Daoguang Emperor, after reading the medallion, sent an imperial envoy to verify the truth and then decreed that funds be allocated to build a plaque in his honour.
The 16-year-old girl, who was in her sixteenth year, watched in solitude for more than 60 years and survived more than 22,000 lonely days and nights until the end of her life at the age of 76. "A woman's name is a tribute to her, but it is also a yoke for all women.
The Daoguang emperor ordered two pagodas to be built to commemorate the event, one in the north of the town of Botou, which has since been demolished, and the other in the village of Jiuyou, where the pagoda still stands.
It is said that on the day this pagoda was erected, an elderly woman, Wu Dianxi, had to come out to pay her respects before the holy order could be erected. But she had not been out of her house for decades, and when she went out and saw a pair of chickens mating, she laughed instead, and the whole place collapsed. Afterwards, she knelt down and swore to pray before the pagoda could be rebuilt again.
Although the red bricks give it a rather rough appearance, a closer look at the pagoda reveals four pillars and three openings, each arch made of a single red brick in a semi-circular hole, with no crossbeams to carry it.
Each pillar is enclosed by a quadruple brick wall, with interlocking teeth and layers of stacking. The lintels are hollowed out and inlaid with square stones on the veneer, which is known as 'brick in stone', or 'gold in silver', and is also varied brickwork.
The red bricks were originally carved with ashlar, but over 170 years of exposure to the elements has caused much of the ashlar to fall away, and the few that remain are simply decorated.
Beyond the pagoda, the ancient road through the fields is faintly visible, perhaps a scene not so different from that of the Jiu You village more than 170 years ago.
The story of Jiuyou Village's Chaste and Filial Piety Square is told in a nutshell: the story of a 16-year-old girl who was widowed for 60 years without ever seeing her late husband. The story in one sentence is the story of a woman who spent her life in loneliness and pain. The pagoda remains the same, the ancient village remains the same, but the heavy yoke of "chastity" has been swept into the dustbin of history.
Compared to a hundred years ago, many things have changed dramatically in China, and many things have not changed in China, whether dramatically or not. I cannot help but think of countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and India, some of which were once close to freedom for women, but the development of society, both in the world and in China, has never been smooth, and civilisation can regress, with women in those countries once again being held in a heavy yoke. I hope that one day the world will be one, that equality between men and women will no longer be a slogan, and that there will be no more chaste pagodas on Chinese soil.