Shaoxing- a hotbed of ancient culture

In the Song Dynasty when nearby Hangzhou was the capital, (approx 1000 AD) the ancient Watertown of Shaoxing became a city renowned for its education, arts and intellectualism.

Here many studied for and sat the civil service entrance examination to become government officials. It was a tough test and many failed. These failures went on to become what was known as ‘Advisors’ who would be employed by individuals or businesses to help assist with things. They were clever and well educated just not good enough for the very top jobs. As an advisor you could specialize in law or finance or even teaching and make a very comfortable living.

In an Advisor’s house
A gorgeous door. I just love the shape, it is like our Taiji stance with the expansion in the upper body, the lock is the belt meridian and the legs providing support below.
The lattice work on the windows kept the room cool in the blistering summer heat

There are many watertowns in China but most are just tourist destinations. Shaoxing on the other had is still a thriving community and I was probably the only non Chinese person there!

You could buy any type of preserved meat

With goose and quail being a specialty
You can even get a squashed pig’s head!
And fish

We took a trip on one of the long slender traditional black boats that used to distribute goods and people along the network of canals. They were towed using a combination of feet and hands.

Also here was a working Soy Sauce factory which was fascinating. I had literally no idea how it was made. Soy beans and wheat powder are mixed with salty water and stored in these huge containers for 180 days in a sludge form. From there is is pressed and filtered and in some cases stored for a further 180 days!

It was a beautiful bustling old town full of charm and character although it did get a little crowded as people flocked in to enjoy the afternoon sunshine by the water.

In the evening we visited the birthplace of China’s most famous writer (sadly I had never heard of him but his works feature in every Chinese textbook I was told.)

Lu Xun was born and educated in Shaoxing at the end of the 19th century. He wrote many books and articles encouraging national pride among his countrymen who were suffering under Japanese oppression at the time. The language is supposedly exquisite.

Then it was on to the Yue Opera. Done in similar style to the Peking Opera (even down to the long sleeves) this was sung in the local dialect which most people don’t understand (I was not alone) however they did provide sub titles in Mandarin. Shifu gave me a running translation so that I got the gist of the story.

Boy and girl (actually cousins!) love each other and want to marry but are thwarted by his mother who has him sent away to become a government official. He sends his love a letter asking her to wait for 3 years and he will find a way for them to be together. The letter is intercepted by the mother who alters it and the girls thinks he is never coming back so she marries someone else.

On his return the son is devastated and writes her a love poem. She writes one back to him. Based on a true story the poems are part of China’s rich cultural history that has been preserved.

Their assignations all took place in a garden where the opera takes place and we were alike to wander around the beautiful setting after the performance.

On an amusing note, I had some toilet experiences today! The first was an extremely old public toilet in the Watertown. The oldest I have come across here

A central channel runs along all stalls and there is one cistern and flush for everyone!
Hilariously it was labeled a civilized toilet!

The second was in the gardens at the opera. It was closing time and they wanted us out so they simply pulled the plug plunging us into total darkness mid flow, leaving us with no electricity and no water! That’s one way to get your message across!!!

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