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Xiamei Village & The Start of the Ancient Tea Road

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Not only have I visited the tomb of the guy who founded the Ancient Silk Road, but I have also been to the beginning of the Ancient Silk Road in Xian City, but now I have been to the ancient village where the Ancient Tea Silk Road began...I think thats damn awesome for one life time!

Xiamei, a small village nestled in the mountains six kilometers east of Wuyishan City in southeastern China’s Fujian Province, is historically considered to be the starting point of the Ancient Tea Road. Today, it also holds two official honors: The village is part of the Wuyi Mountain resort, a World Natural and Cultural Heritage Site; and it is also recognized as one of China’s Famous Villages with Historical and Cultural Significance.

As there are no buses to Xiamei you can either catch one of the small mini-vans or pay for a taxi. Catrine and I decided to begin our adventurous day there and have the taxi driver show us around. Unlike Ancient Heping Village you do need a ticket to enter and the money then goes into restoring the village and helps the villagers continue live in an area where the only employment is farming and as all of the younger generation has moved to larger cities one must wonder how long the fields will remain.

<u>Xiamei, a Peaceful Riverside Retreat</u>

A stone wall with a faded slogan translated as "Taking grain production as baseline" stood alone, like a has-been and aged actor beside an abandoned stage. Not far away, the Ancestor Bridge crossed the Dangxi River, which runs through the village. The bridge was built by local guilds in commemoration of the founders of ancient professions. The original Ancestor Bridge was demolished during the Cultural Revolution, and it is now a two-story wooden structure with four upturned eaves. Here, one could imagine hearing the carpenters crafting the wood with axes, blacksmiths hammering in the workshop and boat trackers singing in unison.

Those ancient professions have almost disappeared with the passage of time, and the Ancestor Bridge is perhaps the only reminder of the village’s past prosperity.

The Dangxi River flows gently from west to east, dividing the village into two parts. Along the old stone-paved road in the village are preserved more than 30 residences dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The ancient structures with white walls and black tiles, as well as gate towers, girders and windows decorated with superb brick, wooden or stone carvings, reminded me of walking through an old lane in the water regions of South China. Glancing up, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful girl, her head leaning out of a window. Several young ladies were picking tea leaves along the riverside, and such a scene reflected on the water was reminiscent of an impressionistic oil painting.

In the setting sun, a group of women, just having finished washing their clothes at the riverside, chatted all the way home, their laughter ringing in the air.

The locals built long benches with wooden planks against the balustrades by the river, and these they gave a poetic name: “Beauty’s Backrest.” Here is where the villagers take a break, chat and drink tea in their spare time. On this hot afternoon, however, I encountered only a few people here. Even the ducks hid themselves in the shade of a stone bridge over the Dangxi River. Strolling along the riverside street, I came across three dogs dozing on the ground.

Hearing the steps of strangers, they opened their eyes, barely, seemingly reluctantly, and did not bother to move their heads.

I stayed at the Xiamei Guesthouse, the only hotel and the tallest building in the village, and the only brick-and-concrete structure along the local stretch of the Dangxi River. Although built in 1998, the hotel maintains the architectural style of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasties, behooving the overall look of the village. Since 1999, when Wuyi Mountain was inscribed to the World Heritage List, to preserve the village’s original look and charm, new structures must comply with official processes of design approval.

My vision blurred with the change of light when I stepped into the hotel.

At that moment, I saw nothing but an expanse of red. A moment later when my eyes began to clear, I saw that the red expanse was actually 20 jars of waxberry wine on the counter. Then, local products for sale, such as snake-infused liquor, tea, mushrooms and bamboo shoots in bottles, barrels or plastic bags, came into sight. Local residents maintain a tradition of making waxberry wine. Each May when the waxberry matures, locals will gather the wild fruit in the mountains and soak them in wine.

Wild waxberries are too acidic for people to eat, but they add a special flavor to wine.

Next to the hotel is Zou’s Ancestral Temple, the largest structure in the village. Despite more than a century of weathering, the brick-carved mystical beasts sitting on upturned roof ridges still guard the old courtyard, while exquisite brick carvings decorating the gate tower remind visitors of the past glory and distinction of the Zou clan.

Built in 1790, the 55th year during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, the temple is a brick-and-wooden structure covering an area of more than two hundred square meters. In front of its gate stands a stone stake, which in ancient times was used to tie up the horses of descendants who came to worship their ancestors. Enshrined in the temple are steles with inscriptions of family rules and temple annals. The main hall is flanked with two side buildings. The second floor of the main hall was once a place for opera performances. The distinctively-designed corridor in front of the hall is supported by wooden arches, which are sometime used to hang lanterns. In the courtyard there is a small rainspout in the shape of ancient Chinese coin, and which is now covered by moss.

In northern Fujian during the Qing Dynasty, the Zou clan was known for its incredible wealth. According to the revised Annals of Chong’an County, in the 19th year during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, Xiamei Village in Chong’an County was a place of many tea markets, and each day three hundred rafts shuttled here to transport tea leaves to other places.

All the local merchants were of the Zou clan.

Xiamei was once the starting point of the Ancient Tea Road, which extended from northern Fujian to Moscow. In ancient times, many merchants from the far north Shanxi Province travelled here to purchase tea leaves here and transport them northwards via Guangxi, finally reaching Europe across the borders between China and Russia.

At the end of the village is an antique store which, during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, was once a temple honoring Mazu, goddess of the sea. During the Qing Dynasty, water transportation thrived here due to the bustling tea trade. As a place of prayers for protection by the goddess, the local shipping guild raised funds to the temple. In those days, the temple was also a place for boat trackers to rest and have dinner.

During my days in the village, I learned the way of local tea drinking. In my spare time, I often relaxed holding a cup of tea, breathing of the strong fragrance swirling from the white porcelain cup. When drinking tea, locals traditionally hold the cup with three fingers. The movement is popularly referred to as “three dragons guarding the vessel.”

<u>There are many local legends regarding the villages beginnings</u>

Most of course are tales of fiction but the story most believe is about Zou Maozhang, the founder of the local Zou clan. According to legend, Zou, born to a poor family made a living as a wandering laborer. One day, after reaching Chong’an County, he fell asleep beneath a plum tree due to hunger and fatigue. In his dream, he saw a fairytale village through which a stream ran in tranquility, its banks blanketed by blooming plum trees.

When he woke up, someone told him the village was Xiamei.

Not long after Zou reached the village he married a maid serving in the family of a local lord. Using a piece of gold his wife stole from the lord as his startup capital, Zou began his business and finally became one of the richest merchants in the area.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Nine Inch Nails The album was 'Year Zero’ ____________________________________________________________

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village


Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Ancient Xiamei Tea Village

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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