I’ve always like the tiles at my childhood home in Xidan (西单), a siheyuan. It invokes nostalgia and warmth. The other day I went to visit Wu Yi (五姨) Fifth Aunt – I haven’t been to her home in ages (the last visit perhaps was in 1979, if not earlier!). Up on entering her home, the first thing I potted was the identical tiles in her home in Xisi (西四).
“Oh, they were made by Qixin.” She told me, “I like them too. When it polished, you can see the shine almost like a mirror.” She commented.
This Qixin Cement (啟新, Chee Hsin – the Wade-Giles way) company was founded by Zhou Xuexi – Albert Feuerwerker’s study had it “reorganized in 1906” by Zhou. The study, part of a book published in 1967 to celebrate his mentor/teacher John Fairbank‘s 60th birthday.
Later that day when I visited Grandaunt Lily’s old home in Xidan that’s waiting to be demolished, I found this broken tile in the courtyard. My cousin Xiao Peng promised me that he’ll save a few for me.
As it turned out, Jiujiu told me that those tiles were indeed made by Zhou’s cement company back in the beginning of 20th century and they adorned many up scale siheyuan floors in Beijing.
The heavily trafficked area are worn off, 被走的磨平了.