The Linden Centre: A Tour Through Yang Pin Xiang’s Home
The Linden Centre: Yang Pin Xiang overlooking the rice fields.
The Linden Centre Yang Pin Xiang historical residence was originally owned by Mr. Yang Pinxiang, a member of the 8 “middle-tier” wealthy families of Xizhou. In 2001, the courtyard was selected as a Nationally Protected Heritage Site. Since then, after undergoing a 2-year renovation process, the building was officially opened to the public in 2008 by the Lindens.
Mr. Yang Pin Xiang
Mr. Yang Pinxiang (1900-1975), was a famous businessman in Xizhou who made his fortune on the Tea Horse Road or “The Silk Road of the South.” After accumulating sufficient experience and capital, Mr. Yang and his brothers founded the “光明” (Bright) company, mainly trading in gold, foreign currency, and cotton yarn. Their company operated in places as far as Hong Kong, Kunming and the closer Xiaguan.In the nineteen spring of the Republic of China, in February, the Yunnan Tourist Association visited the Museum of the old Dian Nan.
Mr. Yang Pinxiang is the fifth right, second row.
As a young man, Mr. Yang had a great love for literature and folk music. When he traveled for work, he often missed the music from his hometown, so he had a record made of Xizhou’s Dongjing music and took it with him to Shanghai. During his stay in Shanghai, Mr. Yang was actively involved in creating a magazine called “New Xizhou” to promote the commercialization and industrialization of his hometown.
At the age of 47, he began to build his own house in Xizhou, his hometown, which he intended to pass it along to his future generations. Mr. Yang’s elegance, fine taste, and aesthetic vision, inspired by years of travel, are all reflected in this house.
Introduction to the Home
Mr. Yang’s house was built in 1947 and covers an area of over 1800 square meters. The house originally consisted of two courtyards with horse stables in the back. When the The Linden Centre was renovated, the Lindens converted the dilapidated stables into rooms, which were newly built but modeled on the original architectural style of the residence.The Yang residence surrounded by blooming canola flowers in March.
The first gate building of Yang Pin’s residence is known as the “石库门” (shi ku men) which was a very popular style in Shanghai in the 1920s. Mr. Yang had lived in Shanghai for a period of time and liked the Western-style stone shi ku men, which itself was influenced by the architectural styles of Jiangsu and Zhejiang.The old Shanghai style entrance of the residence. The porcelain features of the archway were produced in Shanghai and shipped to Xizhou for Mr. Yang’s house.
After passing through the shi ku men, guests find themselves faced with the impressive “national treasure” gatehouse. This gate’s cornice arch, bracketing, detailed woodwork, and murals are exquisite; almost every feature is steeped in symbolic meaning. The gate itself is in fact a typical Bai style “three dripping door gateway.” Water is meant to represent wealth, and the number 3 is associated with the idea of infinity, so when it rains, the raindrops fall from the first to the second eaves and finally fall to the ground. This represents the idea of wealth flowing through the home infinitely.
The Yang Pin home’s inner Bai style gateway. A side view of the three-tiered roof.
Step Inside: The Inner Courtyards
The northern and southern courtyards of Yang Pin’s residence were both built in the “three living spaces one reflecting wall” Bai architectural style. Aside from reflecting light into the courtyard’s various rooms, the wall serves to orient the house cardinally, has fengshui purposes, and is always opposite of the most important room for that courtyard.Mr. Yang’s reflecting wall in the second courtyard was also supposedly used to block unpleasant smells and sounds from the stables in the next yard.One of the pillars in the second courtyard is hollow – it is rumored to hold valuables that could be grabbed in case a hasty escape was necessary.
Inspiration for Future Generations
The merchants of Xizhou have a tradition of painting the family “motto” on the white reflecting wall in their homes, but Mr. Yang wanted his home to be unique. Rather than displaying it obviously on the wall, he had the “清白传家” motto of the Yang family carved into latticework on the second-floor balcony opposite of the white wall. The concave and convex marks make up the silhouette of the four characters.Family motto: “清白传家” qing bai chuan jia roughly translates to clean, innocent family.
On the second floor banister, there are small boxes inscribed with Mr. Yang’s thoughts. They are like the “embroidered bags” in the martial arts novels; While riding his horse, Tang poet Li He would write down small poetic verses on paper, dropping them into an embroidered bag to use later in a poem. The idea was that Mr. Yang’s descendants could turn to the inscriptions for inspiration when they found themselves in a rut. But, Yang also believed that his own experience was limited and hoped for his children to find their own solutions and so he left many of the boxes blank.
“心上无过不去之事便是好人” “A good man has nothing wrong in his heart”
Mr. Yang Pinxiang’s messages for his later generations.
After 80 years the pigments used in the wood carvings, including pig’s blood, breast milk, and gold powder, still have not faded. The sky blue color of the ceiling breaks through the solemnity of the dark beams and roof, and is embellished with golden wood carvings, animals, flowers, and geometric figures, which are beautifully detailed.
Detail: 80-year-old painted wooden bannisters. At the time, red pigments used pig blood and white pigments used breast milk. The golden part is painted with gold powder. The “baby blue” ceilings on the first-floor corridor of the first courtyard. Mr. Yang Pinxiang was probably a romantic at heart.Ceiling details: the color composition is still cool in modern times
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Yang Pin Xiang’s courtyard was used as an army barrack, a military hospital and even a kindergarten. In 2006, the the Lindens took over the operation of the historic house. After two years of careful renovation, the Linden Centre boutique hotel officially opened its doors.
The first courtyard is open to the public and features a restaurant, cafe/bar, teahouse, conference rooms, children’s playroom, as well as a library of about 2000 books, most of which were brought from the United States by the Lindens. The library features a large collection of travel books, books on China, popular novels, and a very special hand-illustrated picture book made by a guest at the Centre. The first entrance to the public area. There are often fun activities going on such as traditional Bai dance, three-course tea ceremonies, and performances by artists from around the world.
Travel can often lead to fatigue and the library is a perfect place to kick back. It feels like its own little world – a great place to have a quiet dialogue with yourself. Guests can learn and practice calligraphy in the library.
The second and third courtyards of the Linden Centre consist mainly of guest rooms and a small garden. There are 16 guest rooms in total, with accommodations for individual travellers, couples, and families alike. After passing through the third courtyard, there is a small garden area with a terrace that is perfect for breathtaking views of the Cang mountains, the beautiful blue skies, sunsets and sunrises. The rooms are comfortable, quiet, spacious and bright.The small, peaceful garden in the third yard of the Centre.
This year the Linden Centre is celebrating its 10th anniversary in our small corner of the world.
We welcome you to visit us at the Yang Pin Xiang home!
Original Article Written & Researched By: Kitty Huang & Irene Wu
Translation By: May Braverman
Photography By: Xiao Long Ge