Compared to other historical relics,such as the Forbidden City of Beijing Tour,the Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses of QinShihuang of Xi’an tour,Chen’s Ancestral Temple is not known so well.But if you want to understand the Lingnan culture more deeply,there is a need that you should come and visit Chen’s Ancestral Temple.

Although there are not many places for tourists in Guangzhou, Chen’s Ancestral Temple is the ‘must-see’ spot that the city can proudly boast about. Despite being relatively new in Chinese history (it was built in 1890), the temple is known for its superb art that epitomizes Guangdong folk art. This is the kind of building you can imagine ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ filming in.The temple has long been looked upon as the ultimate in Cantonese construction of the past glory.

In the late of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a man named Chen got the third place in the highest imperial examination and had conferred upon him a distinguished office title which made the Family Chen well-known. Later someone suggested that all the Chen’s families raise money to build a temple to sacrifice to the ancestors and encourage their offspring likewise to study hard. Therefore, the temple was finished in 1894 with the money donated by Chen’s families in 72 counties of Guangdong Province as well as some overseas members of Family Chen.

The construction was intended as a family memorial temple for all the Chens in the 27 counties in Guangdong Province. Later it functioned as an academy as well, where students of the Chen clan gathered to study before their going to the capital to take the imperial examination in Beijing. And in the early 20th century, the buildings were used to house various institutions. First, there was the Chen Industrial College and then several other schools were also founded there, including Guangdong Public School and Juxian Middle School. It was also used as a family shrine for the Chens to pay tribute to their ancestors every spring and autumn.

Visitors marveled at the exquisite house decorations and the workmanship of the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family. All the buildings are done with a variety of sculptures of wood, stone and brick relieves modeled in pottery and lime, and frescos and copper-iron castings in various styles. The carving techniques express simplicity and ruggedness, precision and exquisiteness, each setting off the other.

The Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family deserves the name of “A bright pearl of the architecture in Lingnan Region”. Visitors are astonished at the perfect skills of the folk artisans. It’s hard to believe such delicate crafts being made with simple and unsophisticated tools. Besides, these carvings are delicate and tasteful reflecting the practice of pursuing elaborate and rich decoration. In addition, some of the contents and forms of expression seem to have been influenced by the foreign cultures, for example, “the image of the little angel”. It is one of the examples of the intermingling of the traditional Chinese culture and Western culture. The local artisans absorbed extensively the traditional techniques as well as the Western skills, not confined to the traditional materials and art tradition. They have enriched the Chinese folk arts and handicrafts, placing them further on the international stage of arts.

There is no need for you to worry about language barrier as most of  the people in Guangzhou are very nice and hospitable ,if at that time you don’t understand what each other talk about ,you can just use body language.So go ahead ,and plan a Guangzhou tour.

Jack Li

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