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Looking for Legacies of the Three Kingdoms

Have you ever read or heard of the Three Kingdoms (AD 222-280)? One of them was the State of Wu in today's east China. If you go to Longmen town, half a hundred kilometers away from Hangzhou, you will find that it is overwhelmingly populated by the offspring of Sun Quan, the king. Over two square kilometers, there are 2,600 households with a population of 7,000. Well over 90 percent are named Sun. The Suns have lived in concentration in this town for 65 generations. The Sun family thrived during the reign of Emperor Jiaqing of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the reign of Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong, just as a verse said, "Many a Sun rank among the Confucian scholars and others wax wealthy."The town was named Longmen, the dragon's gate, after a poem by Yan Ziling, a secluded poet of the Eatern Han Dynasty (25-220): "Green are mountains and beautiful is water here, better than the Dragon's Gate in Luliang." The Suns had lived in this town since the early Song Dynasty (960-1279). It used to be the hub linking eastern western Zhejiang. It is on the crossroads from central to northern Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu.

The town boasts a waterfall at a steep rocky cliff at its Longmen Mountain. It is particularly beautiful when the lush greenery is reflected in the white cascades of the waterfall. It is a waterfall with the biggest fall in the Hangzhou area.

Thanks to the housing development over the past thousand years by the Suns, the family has evolved a special housing design with the main hall in the center. Surrounding the main hall are residential rooms of the family members. Each compound is a family branch unit with the central main hall as the memorial hall for the ancestors. Each residential house is connected by covered corridors or zigzag cobbled pathways. A local saying muses: "If yo visit your neighbors on a rainy day, you won't get your shoes wet."

The town keeps an enviable cluster of architectures of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. They cover pagodas, halls, gate towers, temples, ancestral memorial halls. The early Qing houses still retain their well-designed simple style brimming over with a profound message of history. The houses of the mid and late-Qing Dynasty pay great attention to decorative art with a flourish.

After the repeated scourges of war, now little more than 30 ancient buildings remain intact. They are redolent of the ups and downs of the Sun family. Most outstanding of all is the Yuqing Hall in the southwest of the town. Facing the Dragon Mountain, it was built by Sun Zhong, the 20th generation of Sun Quan, during the Song and Yuan dynasties. The compound has three layers of housing structures with two corridors and a courtyard in the front. The courtyard is flanked by two housing structures, the place where the villagers watch theatrical performances or have fun. The ancient pagoda that is best preserved is the Tongxing Pagoda, one of the two ancient pagodas in Fuyang city, on the eastern slope of the Shita Mountain in the west of the town, commanding a magnificent view of the Longmen Mountain in the opposite.

As the offspring of a king, locals are sensitive about events during the Three Kingdoms (220-280) period. The wooden carvings at the immaculately designed Dongshan Hall tell numerous tales involving stratagems and plots and schemes of war. The generals on horseback and soldiers are so vividly carved in bold relief, you may think that they will come out of the artifacts and jump at you. As further evidence of the local people's nostalgia for history and the glory of the family, the villagrs are particularly keen on performing a bamboo horse dance. The dance features battles during the Three Kingdoms period, retelling tales of how Zhuge Liang, the prime minister of the State of Shu, set fire to the armored boats of the State of Wei with tactics and how Sun Quan beat Liu Bei and Cao Cao in action. It is, anyway, brimming over with a forefather complex.

From Fuyang, go further south to arrive at Lanxi. It boasts of a village with a concentration of the offspring of Zhuge Liang, one of the heroes of the Three Kingdoms period.

Eight Trigrams

The Bagua (Eight Trigrams) Village used to be called Gaolong. A descendent of the 26th generation of Zhuge Liang moved to the place during the mid-Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). They worship Gui, the father of Zhuge Liang, as the original ancestor. The village now boasts of more than 5,000 people with more than half being direct descendents of the Zhuge family. It is the biggest concentration of the offspring of Zhuge Liang in China.

Its mystery lies in the formation of the village, as mysterious as the wise Shu prime minister himself. If you look at it from a high mountain, you see the villages hemmed in by eight hills that are mysteriously as connected and disconnected as in the Eight Trigrams that were used in divination in ancient times. They were eight combinations of three lines, all solid, all broken, or a combination of solid and broken lines, joined in pairs to form 64 hexagrams. The village itself was built in the design of the Eight Trigrams too. The center of the village is a lake, called the Bell Lake divided in half by yin, the water, and yang, the dry bed land, from which radiates eight lanes flanked with homes. The eight lanes carve out the village into eight blocks as in the Eight Trigrams to the letter. The lanes are mysteriously connected and disconnected, too.

The more than 200 houses of the Ming and Qing dynasties painted or carved with ancient folk tales or Eight Trigrams, through all those 600 years of wear and tear, still retain their beauty. There are 18 halls that are of cultural significance and two ancient gardens. It is now on the nation's first class protection list. The village has a memorial hall in memory of the ancestral prime minister, which was built during the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty. The hall that stands on a one meter high raised platform covers nearly 1,400 square meters in a structure with three courtyards and compounds. In the middle courtyard there stand four huge trees, a pine, a cypress, a Chinese parasol, and a tree of heaven. It is here that the villagers hold ceremonies to commemorate the birth of Zhuge Liang on April 14 on the lunar calendar. Similar large-scale memorial activities are held on August 28 and the day of winter solstice. They offer chances to glimpse ithe folk culture of the locality.


1. Take No. 514 air-conditioned bus at Longxiang Bridge in Yan'an Road to Fuyang from where you may go to Longmen; Take a long-istance bus at the southern bus service terminal or at the Hangzhou People's Hall to Tonglu; or take the bus at the Hangzhou western bus service terminal for a direct service to Longmen.

2. At Longmen, you may live in the local people's homes, 30 yuan for an air-conditioned room and 10 yuan for a standar room.

3. Take No.1 or No.8 bus from the Lanxi railway station to the bus terminal of the city where there are direct bus service lines to the Bagua village with a shift every 10 minutes. The fare is 3.5 yuan. There are two direct bus service lines to the village in Shanghai. Or take a bus at the Hangzhou southern bus terminal to Lanxi running every two hours. You get off at Bagua Village.

4. Lodging: You may live in a Lanxi hotel which will cost from 10 to 40 yuan a night, or at a hotel in the village with a charge of about 50 yuan. Or you may live in the farmers'home for 15 yuan a night.

5. Tel: 0579-8600326 (for the Bagua Village tour).

(Beijing Today April 30, 2006)

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