The Private Residences of Dingcun Village
The Private Residences of Dingcun Village are the residential houses with the styles of typical Ming (1368AD-1644AD) and Qing (1644AD-1911AD) Dynasties in Dingcun village, Xiangfen County, Shanxi Province. Located on the bank of Fenhe River, the village is about four kilometers from the urban area of the county. There are now 33 courtyards containing 498 rooms, covering most parts of the village. Dingcun village still keeps the original layout from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The designs of different courtyards are quite different from each other, and there are also various sculptures here. On most of the architectures, there are inscriptions about the construction time of the buildings as well as the artisans" names. As a result, these houses are very important materials for experts to learn more detailed information about the private residential layout and architectural forms in the rural areas in northern part of China. In the year 1998 they were listed as state-level cultural relics.
Dingcun village has been inhabited by the Ding family people for quite a long time, hence the name. According to the research of experts, the oldest residential houses here were built in the 15th century in the Ming Dynasty and the youngest ones were built in the 1920s and 1930s. These houses covered a history of nearly four hundred years. More than forty of them have been listed under state-level protection. All these courtyards were built facing either the northeast or southwest and they could be divided into four groups, such as the northern group, the middle group, the southern group and the western group. Because of the long history of the Ding families, the different features of their houses built in different times could be easily distinguished. The four groups of houses are distributed around Guanyin Temple, which is in the center of the village. With the main street as the central axis, these houses were built generally on the north, south or west of this street. These residential houses have been constructed in reasonable layouts and exquisite architectural styles, with numerous straight or winding alleys. Different courtyards are connected with each other very smartly. The architectures of the northern group were mainly built in the Ming Dynasty, and in the middle part there are mostly Qing Dynasty buildings constructed during the reigns of Emperor Yongzheng and Emperor Qianlong in the eighteenth century. The southern group and the southwestern group of houses were all constructed in the later Qing Dynasty. The most prominent feature of these architectures is that they have been all abundantly decorated. Wood, stone and brick sculptures could be observed all over the different parts of these houses, especially the wood carvings, they could be seen almost everywhere. The sculptures have been made in various styles and designs. For example, there are over sixty different patterns of wood sculptures on the windows and more than fifty patterns of sculptures on the columns.
In these residential houses, most of the furniture is of the Ming Dynasty style, however only a few of them were made in the Ming Dynasty, most of others were actually made in the Qing Dynasty, but in a Ming style. Just like the houses, many pieces of the furniture are still used by the villagers today.
Because of their long history, exquisite construction, and various architectural designs, the residential houses in Dingcun village are of high historical, cultural and scientific values. The layout and designs of the buildings not only make them look elegant, but also satisfy the practical use of inhabitation. They have vividly reflected the customs, hobbies, religious beliefs, and traditions of the Han Nationality Chinese living in the southern part of Shanxi Province. They are precious materials for scholars to study the traditional Chinese architectural customs. Architecturally speaking, the villagers in the Dingcun village have combined the merits of different architectural forms, and make their own houses as practical and beautiful as possible. The sculptures on the buildings could vividly reflect the local people"s life, including their rituals, operas, assemblies, folk customs, and family education. As a result, they are considered to be precious living fossils of ancient Chinese folk custom.