Gentlemen of leisure visit Dufu’s Thatched Cottage.
Yes, it’s true. Another sunny day in Chengdu accompanied by your actual blue sky. I decided to take a trip to 杜甫草堂 (Dùfǔ Cǎo Táng). Dufu (712-770) is one of China’s greatest poets and lived during the Tang Dynasty. He came to Chengdu to escape from conflict in another part of the country. As seems to be typical, he tried to get an official position, but when he did, it was only at a low level because of the machinations of some despicable bureaucrat. He got bored with the job which was, no doubt, unworthy of someone with Dufu’s talents.
Here’s the man himself.
Those are my legs reflected in the bronze. Steady, ladies. I know they’re sexy, but try to calm yourselves. You’ll notice that the beard is a slightly different colour from the rest of him because of the Chinese mania for touching bits of statues for good luck.
This is the replica of Dufu’s cottage. From what I could tell from various exhibits (with limited info in English), the complex became more and more extensive, although I’m not sure whether this was in Dufu’s time or, as seems more likely, after it.
Actually, there’s a museum near the North Gate which displays a dig from which Tang Dynasty artifacts were unexpectedly uncovered in the course of building work. The find was quite important because there are apparently not a lot of remains from the Tang Dynasty (apart from the Politburo; sorry, couldn’t resist).
One of the things they unearthed in the course of the dig was this stone tablet, the inscription on which includes a date of 687AD. Well, the Chinese equivalent of such a date.
In the south-east corner of the grounds is 万佛楼 (Wàn Fó Lóu; Ten Thousand Buddha Building). It’s built on the site of an earlier pagoda, but it’s been shifted slightly so that you can see the base of the original columns which have been preserved under glass at the bottom of the building.
While I was in the building, I managed to snap this bird sitting on one of the roof ridges a moment before it flitted away.
Overall, Dufu’s Cottage is a very picturesque garden with features such as a red-walled path overarched with green bamboo.
Or this pleasant waterside pavilion.
Or this pavilion with a stele with an inscription from a Tang Dynasty noble called Prince Guo (which features on a mouse mat I believe I bought in Changzhou).
Or ponds full of lilies.
There are quite a few displays in the place including one building with pictures of various Chinese leaders from Mao to Jiang Zemin who had visited Dufu’s Cottage. Deng Xiaoping said that if you visited Chengdu without visiting Dufu’s Cottage, then you weren’t visiting the place at all. Curiously, there were examples of calligraphy by various Party boys on display, only some of which were clearly identified. Either the staff don’t know who produced the calligraphy, or they don’t want to say for some reason, but I noted that the ill-fated Liu Shaoqi was among those who dropped by. So was French president Jacques Chirac.
I tried to do a circuit of the place, but got slightly lost in the middle. Nonetheless, I managed, somehow, to see most of the grounds. I note that once again, like the map they hand out at Wuhou, the map of Dufu’s Thatched Cottage is in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In fact on this map, there’s not a scrap of English.
So, if you’re ever in Chengdu and have 2½ to 3 hours to spare, then this place is worth a visit. (Now if the Sichuan Tourist Board would pay me an advertising fee…)