Guangfu Ancient Town, part I (广府古城 - Guǎngfǔ gǔchéng)

Rem Sapozhnikov / April 2014
One day, looking through Google maps, I was lucky to notice an unusual place (see a screenshot below). Of course, I immediately became interested in the square town I had never heard of. It turned out that it was Guangfu Ancient Town in the south of Hebei Province. It is similar to Pingyao, but less well known.

Except the name Guangfu, it is also called Guangpingfu (广平府 - Guǎngpíngfǔ). The former name of the town was Yongnian (永年 - Yǒngnián).

The information on the history of the Town is widely different. Some sources say that the first mention of the town in this place dates back to the Western Han dynasty (202 - 9 BC). Other sources name the more ancient Spring and Autumn period (722 to 481 BC). Initially, instead of a brick wall, the town was surrounded by an earth mound, which was built during the Tang dynasty period (618-907).

The dating of the brick wall construction is different too. According to some sources, it was built during the Yuan dynasty period (1271 - 1368 AD). According to other sources, it was built later, during the Ming dynasty period (1368 - 1644 AD). It is possible that in 1542 it was not a construction, but a reconstruction of Guangfu town wall, which lasted 13 years. It is known that the old masters added rice broth to the lime mortar. It was believed that such a mixture fixes the bricks better and makes the walls more durable. The same technology was used in the construction of the Great Wall. The creation date of the defensive ditch around the town is not specified anywhere.

Guangfu is located at a distance of about 25 km (15.5 mile) to the north-east from Handan. You can get to the ancient town by bus No. 605, which departs from the old train station. The fare is 5 yuan. However, I decided to travel by bus, which stops near the hotel (I do not remember its number), get to one of the towns nearby to Guangfu and from there get to the point of destination by some transport moving in that direction. When the conductress heard my "one ticket to the last stop, please", she tried to explain to me something and did not want to sell me a ticket. There were no Russian- or English-speaking passengers to make me understand what the problem was. In the end, I bought a ticket, but my plan was quickly disrupted.

Barely out of the city, the bus stopped at the police cordon, put off all the passengers and left. "Let it be an adventure, – I thought. – I'll see though, what does a suburb look like". Further, following the other passengers, I found myself on the road behind the cordon. Ahead I could see a large crowd of people. "Is there some holiday? I will certainly find some transport to move on," – I thought again.

So, after about a kilometer on the road to Beitun town (北屯头村), I got to a local protest action. I didn’t stay long there, because my appearance provoked excessive interest – of both protesters and police.

Later, I tried to find some information about what was happening that day. Unfortunately, all the messages of that event were only in Chinese. If I got it right, the local peasants and farmers were displeased with the price for their land property repurchase, which was 3 times lower than the market land value in these districts. The inhabitants suspected that the local bureaucratic corruptionists have defrauded the part of money allocated for the compensation.

Interestingly, I found the materials about this protest action (in Chinese) on RadioFreeAsia and ChinaAid websites, the headquarters of which are located in Washington.

The photo depicts numerous shops of Beitun town. In reality there are a lot more of them. The town is small, and I didn’t get it, whom they sell their goods to. I went down the road, left the cordon behind and after a while found a car that took me to the Southern Gateway to Guangfu Ancient Town.
The first attraction of Guangfu I attended was the Yang Luchan (杨露禅 - Yáng Lùchán) Memorial House /1799-1872/ – the house of the master and the teacher of taijiquan martial art. One of the taiji styles is named after him. This is the entry to the house Yang Luchan lived in. Here you can buy a single entrance ticket to Guangfu tourist destinations. The Memorial House is located outside the Ancient Town near the Southern Gateway.
As can be seen in the photo, even the price is written in hieroglyphs here. The ticket cost 60 yuan, and not 98 as stated. Guangfu mainly focuses on Chinese tourists, although in the key places there are information boards in several languages.
Map of the former Residence (House) of Yang Luchan.
Further a few pictures with the interior elements of the Yang Luchan’s House.
By the way, not far from Yang Luchan’s House is planned to build a theme park dedicated to taiji.
In the courtyard goes leisurely training.
Yang Luchan’s House is located on the pond bank. It has an artificially created maze of swamp reed, where you can ride a pleasure boat.
As I sat in a small chinese pavilion and recharged energies with a yoghurt, a mini-hydroplane (you can see it in the photo) had several takeoffs and landings. Usually it flies over the southern part of Guangfu, although later it was seen over the northern part of the town. Tourist note: the toilet can be found between the Southern Gateway of Guangfu and Yang Luchan’s House.
That's the talk! Broad defensive ditch and not a narrow groove like in Pingyao.
Map of Guangfu Ancient Town in Chinese. I am moving toward the Southern gate.

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