Tangkou Village, Ngan Wu Tsuen
This is the Village you see from the courtyard of the Tangkou Old Post Office, or with a better view from the roofs of either of the hostels. There is an early morning fresh food market just to the east of the Tangkou road. It is open early every day but the main market days are on the 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30th day of the calendar month. Normally the market closes by about 9 am. The Guangdong Greenway passes through the village.
Villagers reported to an intern who was carrying out research, there are around 400 inhabitants of the village and a further 700 or so who would regard it as their home village but are living overseas, mainly in Canada, USA and Hong Kong. Around 800 people attend the clan reunion dinner at the village. This is normally held on the 5th or 6th day of the Chinese New Year.
It has traditional elements of an earth god shrine at the entrance, beside a banyan tree where villagers gather to chat, bamboo groves and two temples. In a single storey prominent green tiled building Sing Mo, (San Mu, or Wohng Mouh leung, leung, the Holy Mother of the king) is worshipped, together with other gods including Guan Gung (known as the Holy Father). Inside the temple are photographs of the Clan gatherings.
The other temple, just behind the pond is for a trio of gods known as the Sam Sing. It is to this temple that a line of firecrackers is laid from the Memorial Archway (or Pai Fong) beside the road at the entrance to the village and set off just before the clan gathering begins their dinner. The firecracker explodes for some 15 minutes before the bursts reach the Sam Sing Temple.
There is an ancestral hall, now painted green at the front of the village adjacent to the main fung shui pond and a basketball court. The hall has an upper floor used as a meeting and community room where mahjong is sometimes played. The village has three ponds, all in front and to the side of the village. In addition there is a small rectangular pond that is reportedly used for washing the bodies of the recently deceased.
There are additional markers at the rear (northern extremity) of the village beneath a banyan tree and near the public toilet at the western side of the village, just beyond another banyan tree. There are three diaolou. One of them was used as a village school but is now closed so there is no school in the village. The lower staircases of the other two have decayed, preventing access up the diaolou. The village is some 300 years old, the ancestors having come from Henan.
One story concerning the villagers’ reverence for the Holy Mother relates to the Japanese occupation when they were crossing a bridge to enter the village but their canon fell into the river and the Japanese saw this as a bad omen and avoided the village. This was attributed to the protection of the Holy Mother. Another version, however, has it that the Japanese in their anger at the delay, destroyed another temple that used to exist where the car park is now near the fine new toilet block.
There used to be a single very tall tree in the middle of the village. At the time of the Great Leap Forward intruders had cut several other tall trees but the village ladies linked arms to protect this final tall tree, saying it was important to them as a communal place. The unwelcome visitors left and the tree is known as the “Women’s Tree”. Unfortunately the tree was blown down during the passage of Typhoon Hato in August 2017.
A further story relates that a Fung Shui master had told the villagers it was a “Yin” village with female characteristics, so dragon dances, which belong to the “Yang”, masculine characteristics, were inappropriate and could cause conflict. Therefore, this village has no dragon dances. Likewise, baby boys would be present at the Chinese New Year banquets, but not baby girls. This tradition was repealed several years ago and baby girls can now attend the banquet as well as boys.
At the far end of the village is also another banyan tree. The rice drying concrete areas are used intensively during the harvest. Both Combine Harvesters and the smaller scale traditional threshing machines are used.
Villagers tell us that when Tangkou Cun had a population rise a fung shui master was consulted. He advised that a new village should be started “1,000 paces” from the existing temple – hence the village of Xing Ren Cun (Hing Yan Tsuen) was started just to the north, behind Tangkou Cun. Another interesting village, with several diaolou, Zhai Qun Cun lies down the lane beyond the closed tax office, the closed internet café and the motor cycle practice driving area. Both are Fong clan villages.
It is not unusual for youngsters to have to move out to find work, but living expenses in Shenzhen are high so some may work in Kaiping or Jiangmen, returning to visit elderly relatives whenever possible.
Tangkou Old Town
The local government moved out of the old town in about 2007 and set up new purpose built offices in the new town a couple of kilometres up the road. The Fung Library provides simple meeting facilities and there is a local District Office. Another hostel and a Youth centre opened near the market but the youth centre shut very soon after opening in 2019. Unfortunately the local kindergarten closed, a Middle school in Sangyuan village closed so that after kindergarten, children have to go to Kaiping for schooling. Likewise the abattoir, a local hospital, a clothing factory, the tax department, a dormitory for Government servants, a motor bike driving testing a gaming arcade, an internet café have also closed. Opposite the Tangkou Community Centre, the Sunshine Home for the aged and mildly mentally challenged closed in 2018 but may be revitalized as part of the Tangkou Community Project.
The restaurant at the corner has been recently renovated and there are significant plans to revitalize and develop the area in a co-ordinated manner and to construct a new road to the south of the area. A plaque at the Y junction leading to Hing Yan Tsuen was erected in 1996 by Jack Li Fong who owns an insurance firm in San Francisco.
Cycle ride to the UNESCO Cluster of villages at Zili from Tangkou
There are two ways to cycle to Zili – either by turning right from the old Post Office hostel and right again at the garage and right again to Zili. Alternatively, perhaps a more interesting route is to turn left from the hostel and left again at the end of the street, through the old village and a couple of hundred metres turn left at the Y junction to cycle past the pleasant village of Xing Ren Cun (Hing Yan Tsuen, see separate notes).
After a slight rise we come to the San Sing (=Holy blessed) Ancestral Hall with its new Diao Zhuang (Diu Jong) school/hostel. If you want to see inside there is a rather steep entrance fee of RMB 50. This is a copy of the period style. A closer look at the architectural features reveal that it was not designed really to serve a defence function but rather to impress.
However, soon coming into view are the dramatic diaolou and mansions of the Zili Village cluster. As we approach, on the right hand side, are some fine mansions and diaolou. Further ahead we come to the gate leading into the Zili UNESCO villages.
Cycle ride to Li Gardens and to Cangdong Village
There are several routes to cycle to Cangdong village and to Li Gardens, taking around 20 minutes. The two principal routes involve cycling on sections of the Guangdong Greenway, either towards the garage or past the new toilet block.
(@ c. Text and photos by Peter Stuckey, Tangkou Community Project. Updated Sept 2019)
Banana Man and Tangkou Community Centre
Based in Tangkou village, the Community Centre encourages villagers to participate in arts and crafts, practicing old skills, passing on traditional skills and learning new ones such as macramé, making some pocket money as they can sell their produce at occasional fairs which they themselves also help to organise. We are delighted at the local musical talent and the immense support of local musicians, opera singers and dancers.
With local knowledge the villagers can help visitors and particularly overseas Chinese in finding their roots. They can teach us all about the farming techniques and skills, particularly on the fields that the Centre now rents for educational and recreational value rather than the maximization of crop yields.
By a strong policy of local employment the Tangkou Centre is training staff and encouraging young and middle aged folk to stay, spend more time in the area or to return to the area. The chefs are splendid examples of this, providing first class meals and gaining expertise as they do so.
“Banana man” is a happy example of a situation where improved job opportunities have improved quality of life.
We are delighted that so many volunteers and interns come to share their time and talents in the Centre enriching the cultural exchange and the research and recording as well as the quality of life for all concerned.
Ngan Wu Laih (or Tsuen), (Wild Goose Village).
This is another Fong clan village. It lies between the Factory hostel and the National Granary. It has one diaolou, beside the Factory hostel. There are about a dozen lu mansions and houses with fine stucco work and some have fung shui walls in front of their main door. Most are not regularly occupied, though there are some villagers. There is a basketball court. There is a fung shui marker at the far side of the rice drying area which forms the basketball court. At the far end, beyond the public toilet, taro was being grown as a cash crop in July 2017.
Fung shui markers and the grey “pearls”.
(@c. Text and Photos by Peter Stuckey, Tangkou Community Project, Feb 2019)