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Shanggantang Village is one of the oldest authentic villages in Hunan Province. Its history can be traced back 1,000 years. It is located 25 kilometers southwest of Jiangyong County.
Shanggantang village has over 200 preserved ancient structures that were built during the Qing and Ming dynasties. The village boasts picturesque natural and architectural views.
At present, there are about 453 households and 1,865 residents in Shanggantang village. According to the recorded family tree, only 7 households living there today are not descended from the original residents. They were immigrants during the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
All the other residents carry the family name Zhou. The Zhou clan has been in the village since the Song Dynasty. Shanggantang is the oldest village ever discovered in Hunan Province.
Shanggantang villagers have a tradition that involves gathering in the empty land at the village’s entrance during important occasions. They celebrate festivals and ceremonies where they offer sacrifices to the ancestors. A small opera troupe tours the area and performs on the ancient stage near the fields where villagers work.
Visitors are amazed at the 200 ancient dwellings from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The villagers actually call the village Gantang to honor their ancestors.
The village is comprised of two areas. The upper part of Gantang village is called Shanggantan. It is located on the upper portion of the Mu River. The section below the river is called Xiagantang.
Wenchang Tower was built in the Ming Dynasty under Emperor Wanli. The tranquil tower fascinates visitors with its broken steles and stone door heads engraved with Chinese dragons. It is a great spot to appreciate the warm and dazzling sunshine.
Villagers call Bu Ying Bridge the half-bridge. It is a three-hinged arch bridge that stretches across Mu River. This structure is Hunan’s oldest bridge.
Villagers believe that Bu Ying Bridge can indicate a talented person or a great official when a piece of stone falls from the bridge. Heavy floods have struck the bridge many times. This caused the formation of square rocks that are called the Immortal Crossing or Duxian. Many visitors claim that crossing the Bu Ying Bridge feels like going back 800 years in history.
Bu Ying Bridge was built in 1126. The stone bridge is 30 meters in length and 4.5 meters wide. It underwent major renovations from 1135 until the reign of Emperor Quianlong in the Qing dynasty.
Shanggantang village provides visitors with a warm and peaceful environment. Local children keep busy playing in the alleys, and older people stay in the sunshine.
In addition, Shanggantang village is home to blue stone slabs and carvings that can be seen everywhere. Experts say that these figures are proof that the village was once a very prosperous place.
The Zhou family believes that small rocks falling from the bridge will bring heroic officials into their lineage. The Zhou family worships their ancestors and the Buddha in the remains of the Buddhist temple and nunnery in the village.
The Zhou family has been living in the village for almost 48 generations. They are the original dwellers. The family has kept its lineage in Shanggantang village despite the constant warfare and changes over time. The family carved information about important events in the village’s history on the mountain slope in the southwestern part of the village.
The 24 barren stone carvings denote important details about the family’s history. Some of them were created during the Qing Dynasty. Two are from Northern Song Dynasty, 11 were carved during the Ming Dynasty, four are from the Southern Song Dynasty and one was carved during the Yuan Dynasty.
The most amazing carving in the village is the four giant characters that Wen Tianxiang wrote. This carving measures 1.5 meters long and one meter wide.
The Zhou family has preserved the portraits of 100 officials from the village. Many of these figures served in the national capital. Also included are 11 scholars who won the title Jinshi. These people successfully passed the highest imperial examinations to become officials.
The remains of Lianxi Shuyan or Lianxi Academy can also be found in the village. It is located in the east and has colored paintings on the walls. There are also many houses at the village’s entrance that are more than 300 years old.
Shanggantang village can be reached by bus. It is between Taochuan Town and Xiacengpu Town in Hunan Province. Visitors may take the bus from Taochuan to the village. Buses also run from Guangxi Gongcheng.