The Chen Clan Museum 1—Entrance And Sitting Rooms

    Xiaohong took me to an extremely interesting place that doesn't seem to have an established English name. He called it the Chen Family Museum, the signs there refer to the Chen Clan, and one of my guidebooks calls it the Chen Clan Academy. I will call it the Chen Clan Museum. It is a complex of 19 buildings built in the 1890s, which now serves to recall the heyday of old Guangzhou.
    Here is some background information about the museum from two signs.

Chen Clan Academy
    "The Chen Clan Academy, locally known as the Chen's Ancestral Hall, was built on funds jointly raised by the Chen families in 72 counties of Guangdong Province in the 20th year of Guangxu Reign of the Qing Dynasty (1894). The ancestral hall covers a total area of 13,200 square meters. Its main structure, 5-bay-wide and 3-row-deep in square shape with a floorspace of 6,400 square meters, is an artistic complex comprising 19 big and small buildings. The buildings are interspaced by courtyards but connected with verandas, thus forming a magnificent complex structure with grand halls and tasteful gardens which not only embodies the traditional style of Chinese ancient structures, but also possesses the distinctive features of the buildings in the south of China.
    "The Chen's Ancestral Hall makes a comprehensive expression of the exquisite folk arts and crafts of the local province. All its buildings were decorated inside and outside with wood carvings, brick carvings, stone carvings, ceramic sculptures, line sculptures, iron castings and paintings. These artistic decorations are varied in style and life-like modeling, all of super workmanship. They cover a wide range of subjects, including Chinese legends and historical stories of "The Seven Scholars in the Bamboo Grove," "The Heroes Gather in Mt. Liang for the Rightful Cause" and "Presenting the Brocade Robe as a Gift"; rare birds and lucky animals, auspicious flowers and plants, ornamental patterns symbolic of fortune and happiness such as "The Five Bats Gather to Greet Longevity," "The Three Goats Bring in Prosperity" and "The Phoenix Faces the Sun," local scenes of "The Egith Sights of the Goat City" and "Joyfully Singing after Catching Fish for Home at Dusk'; natural scenery of hills and waters in southern China; and Guangdong's fruits of pineapple, papaya, litchi and carambola.
    "In 1959, Mr. Guo Moruo highly appreciated the artistic decorations after his visit here and composed the verse: Nature's engineering may be replaced by human creations, Man-made objects here appear nicer than natural ones; The human world is created in a way like this: A visit here surpasses my learning from books in ten years.
    "The Chen's Ancestral Hall is the extant traditional art building in Guangdong, which is famous for the most extensive scale, the intactest preservation and the most exquisite decoration. It is listed as an important historical site under state protection, and becomes one of the famous tourist sites of Guangzhou."

Guangdong Folk Arts Museum
    "Guangdong Folk Arts Museum is housed in the Chen's Ancestral Hall. Established in 1959, it is devoted to the procurement, collection, care, study, promotion and display of handicraft articles from various regions of China, with emphasis on the folk arts and crafts of Guangdong Province.
    "Guangdong's folk arts and crafts are multifarious in kind and known for their long history. The museum has collected some 100 kinds of arts and crafts, including pottery and porcelain, carving and sculpture, embroidery and stitchwork, and other handicraft articles as well. Exhibitions of various kinds with strong folk custom and local conditions are often held in this art museum. They include the long-displaying exhibitions, such as the Guangdong Ceramics, Guangdong Carving and Sculpture, Guangdong Embroidery, Guangdong Paper Puts and Wheatstraw Patchwork. Among these exhibitions, there are Shiwan artistic ceramics noted for their simple and unsophisticated style, Guangzhou colored porcelain famed for its golden and colorful drawing, Chaozhou golden wood carving characterized by their exquisite workmanship, "Guang Xiu"—one of the Chinese "Four Famous Tambours," noble and elegant stain-etched glass, and the ivory carving of Guangzhou well-known at home and abroad for its ingeniously carved ivory balls. In order to carry forward the Guangdong excellent and traditional folk arts, promote prosperity and development in the fine arts, the museum often holds rich and colorful special exhibitions and various art lectures, which are aimed to enrich the cultural life of the people."

Origin of Guangdong Chen Clan
    Shun, named Chonghua, was one of the five emperors in Chinese remote antiquity.
    In Zhou dynasty, Shun's descendant Hu Gongman was made a prince in 'Chen' country by King Wu, then the clan used 'Chen' as their surname. After that, Chen clan developed continuously and moved into Guangdong Province.
    Up to now, Chen Clan has had more than four-thousand-year history. Their earliest ancestor were Shun Emperor and Hu Gongman.
    The picture is about the original appearance of the ancestral tablets in Chen's Lineage Hall.

A closer view of the sign.

The entrance to the museum. The buildings are on the right.

The ticket window.

    Daily life in old Guangzhou was an enchanting local custom painting. The unlocked foot-doors and the sliding grid-gates of the old houses, the delicately carved-screens and the refined furniture were bearing their graceful luster in the old time. But with the passage of time, they look somewhat out-of-date, and even decaying. the moss-grown bricks and tiles, the mottled planks and the remaining ornaments seem to be telling you the history, the changes and the development of the society.
    In recent years, old houses, one after another, have been pulled down for new buildings; old rooms have been redecorated; and old building parts and furniture have fallen into disuse. We collected some of them to put on show here. And we do hope that these historic and artistic exhibits will arouse your nostalgic remembrance as well as your interest.

A nine-panel stained-glass window.

A reading room.

Art in the reading room.

Stained-glass doors in a chest of drawers.

A sitting room.

One of the many courtyards in the Chen Clan Museum.

Ahead to Chen Clan Museum 2
Back to Guangzhou Jan 04