Little Pangu Garden at 42 Dashu Alley (大树巷 42 号) was the residence my great great grandfather Zhou Fu (Popo‘s maternal grandpa 婆婆的外公) purchased from Xu Wenda 徐文达（1825-1890，字仁山) – [please see the comment from his great grandson], a fellow villager (安徽 同乡) and salt merchant, for his retirement. The year of acquisition differs in two places: the plaque on the wall at the entrance has it as 1904 while Yangzhou Evening News has it at 1897. His fourth son Zhou Xuexi wrote in his Self-Narrated Chronicle:
光绪二十三年 丁酉 (1897 年)
光绪三十年 甲辰 (1904 年)
Well, more research is needed but I lean toward 1897 because of his reason to buy and his later appointments. (See paragraph in the middle of the post.)
Little Pangu Garden
现为全国重点文物保护单位。 为晚清官员周馥家园，因韩愈名篇 <<送李愿归盘谷序>> 而得名。周馥 (1837-1921), 字玉山， 建德 (今安徽东至) 人，历官署理直隶总督，北洋大臣，两江、两广总督。 光绪三十年 (1904年) 购徐氏旧园修建。园在宅东，园门作月洞形，上嵌隶书“小盘谷”额。园内峰回路转，苍岩临水，溪谷幽深，石径盘旋。 是扬州城市园林的代表作之一。 园西部住宅，东西两轴，前后各三进。
It is now a National Preserved Unit of Cultural Relic. It was the residence garden of Zhou Fu, once a governor of Jiangnan & Jiangxi and a governor of Guangdong & Guangxi in later Qing Dynasty, and it got the name from the famous article of Han Yu of Tang Dynasty: The Preface to Seeing Li Yuan off to Pangu
小盘谷位于扬州老城区丁家湾大树巷的一所老宅. 建筑面积1400多平方米，占地5700 平方米. 东部为园林，西部为住宅 the garden sits on a about 1.41 acre lot. The eastern section used for garden and western part for living space which has about 1400 sq m or 15k sq feet.
I was surprised by the proximity the rare part of the compound to its neighbors across the street. When I came up to the main entrance, the feeling was the same: narrow and suffocating. The gate house was manned by couple of guys in uniform. They came out to stop us. It’s closed to public due to the renovation. (Yanxing said that when her son Du Jialin 杜佳临 went and identified himself, the government and the developer were overjoyed at finding a Zhou.) No one bothered us when we went in at the back but I didn’t want to go in sneakily. Caroline had to call someone to get us in – my sole reason for contacting the government in the first place: to have an insurance just in case.
I had known Xiao Pangu for a while from my research but only got interested after my third cousin Li Yanxing‘s vivid description when I interviewed her over the phone. She’s MD Chow‘s granddaughter who grew up there at Xiao Pangu; a retired college professor now lives in Hengyang 衡阳, Hunan Province (she often invited me to visit her in Hengyang .. “I have an 180 sq meter apartment ..” Although I didn’t get to meet her but did manage to meet her pretty daughter Mimi in Shanghai who works as a trainer at a gym). After I finalized my trip I called her up, thinking maybe we could take a trip to Yangzhou together as she had offered when we last spoke. Unfortunately she couldn’t make the trip but told me that the garden is being renovated at the moment. It’s now or never. So I made the trip by myself, with little added insurance. As it turned out, was much needed – thanks to George and Chris.
Pass the gate house we were in the front courtyard. To my far left is a screen wall leads into side court where the construction of a spa is under way, jacuzzi, water fall and all that stuff. To my front/right is the entrance to the main compound. Inside were unkempt exhibition posters of life of Zhou Fu and history of the garden.
There were two cluster of posters on the wall. To the left showed the planned renovation and to the right is the vanishing history that I came to see and hoped to connect. Would I be able to feel their joy and pain?
A pretty Bella engulfed in a very masculine surrounding
Zhou Fu had wanted to use this compound to pass his sunset years but after purchasing it, was soon to be plucked out of retirement by Li Hongzhang, beginning his wind whirl tour of serving as the Sichuan Provincial administrative commissioner 四川布政使 in 1897, Viceroy of Jiangxi and Jiangsu provinces 两江总督 (governor-general) in 1904年 and Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces 两广总督 in 1906. It’s during his last gig at Canton that he signed 1907 5% Gold Loan bond. When he finally retired in April 1907, his wife soon passed away (Nov 2nd1). He then decided to depart Yangzhou and to live with his fourth son Xuexi 学熙 in Tianjin, the most successful one who ultimately succeeded him as the patriarch of the family.
Chow Chung-cheng 周仲铮, the youngest child of Zhou Fu‘s youngest son Xuehui (zi Shizhi 实之) had passionately talked about her Yangzhou years. Her passion was more of roots, or origin since she was born and raised in Tianjin. Her mother was from Yangzhou, so naturally their servants were all from Yangzhou. She loved its cuisine and dialect, and was ecstatic when she met the fellow artist 潘玉良 Pan Yuliang who’s from Yangzhou as well. They met in the 1950s in Paris; very 他乡遇故知 ..2
Passing through the round festooned gate I came to the main courtyard on the west side of the compound. 假山, jiashan – a botanical garden rockery to the right and the house to the left.
Part of the compound – gardens and houses have already been renovated. There isn’t any remnants left. Li Yanxing (my third cousin) said she had asked repeatedly for the 匾 bian (a horizontal inscribed board, with words of praise) that was bestowed to Zhou Fu on his 70th birthday from Cixi 慈僖. As I understand 赏字 bestow a reward by the emperor – in this case a calligraphy – the receiver would always feel very appreciative and engrave it onto a beautiful piece of wood (mostly) or frame it, to show the honor.
“It had to be at least a piece of Machilus nanmu 楠木 or better since it’s from Cixi.” Li explained further that
“It it might or might not actually inked by Cixi for she had many ghost calligraphers. But I feel it’s a 文物 culture relic, history relic. So I insisted on finding it, asked the government few times.” She told me.
My gut feeling? It’s probably long gone, ransacked or burned during the culture revolution.
“I think so too.” She agreed readily.
Li was born and grown up on this estate and could recall in vivid details of her time there, especially playing hide and seek in the rockeries with cousins.
“In the summer time, I would sleep inside of the rockery.”
The rockery located in the inner courtyard is the 九狮山, Nine Lions Hill.
The gold fish swim leisurely in the pond
A pavilion on the top level perhaps has the best vantage view of the compound
Touring the estate I felt rather vacant, not much of connection except knowing that I was there. Seeing this tea set inside the rockery seemed to sum up some tangible feeling. I decided before the tour (or .. .. before taking off from JFK) that I’d be open mind and unmoored, to be led. Like you’re enjoying a piece of music (full symphony or pop song) from a certain composer/artist. It moves you into a different era and space, not necessarily his, the composer’s but your own, because each of us interpret or absorb a piece of music differently. Don’t fight for control, don’t impose your opinion ..
The tea set .. hmmmmm … only three seats: can’t play baifen 打百分 there .. where IS the fourth seat, can’t play bridge with a 3-some, can you?
“Auntie Mengfen 孟芬 would kowtow pray on the 15th and end of month, every month. Not sure if there was a real immortal fox 狐仙, but she was serious about it. Once we caught a baby fox, the maid put on a leash and I walked it as a pet. My aunt was livid and scared. She took it from me immediately, and went in to pray.”
Xiao Pangu was spared from Japanese occupation. The government took over the garden in 1949 in 赎买 buy out wave. She said she didn’t remember how much it was – there probably wasn’t a lump sum paid because government began paying a fixed interest since. It stopped during the Cultural Revolution then resumed after 1976 for few more years.
A wooden bucket sat next to the little well behind the cleaning lady. I was floored to see her mopping, errrrrr …. out door? …while the renovation is still raging ?! White shirt and black pants 白衫黑裤, a typical maid uniform.
水流云在, an engraved stone above the pond. Have I missed the story here? Why the dot on top of 流 liu (flow; drifting, etc.) is on the 在 zai (exist; be living; rest with; etc.). Whose calligraphy was it? Talk to me, little stoney .. .. I was deaf and in a rush because the need to make the 12 o’clock lunch date.
The rare section of the garden on Dingjia Wan 丁家湾
1 周学熙自叙年谱 Self-Narrated Chronicle
2 波恩的中国人 A Chinese in Bonn