文章来源：俞孔坚, Sara, JACOBS,等. 阅读西溪南[J]. 景观设计学, 2016, v.4;No.024(06):6-11.
Reading the Book of Xixi'nan
The landscape is a book. Every village holds its own book of the landscape — some are thick and heavy, others thin and light; some villages are profound, others crude; often they are magnificent and jubilant, and at times implicit and miserable. Among the books of villages, the Xixi’nan Village in Huizhou, Anhui Province is a beautiful book, deep with meaning.
Other than my hometown of Dongyu Village in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, Xixi’nan is my most favorite landscape book. Located on the south bank of Fengle River, the village maintains a harmonious co-existence between humans and nature. A long history and various stories combined with current neighborhood trifles and politics make for a book worth reading and re-reading.
The first chapter of the book begins with a Chinese wingnut (Pterocarya stenoptera) forest to the north of the village, the most beautiful river floodplain forest I have ever seen in China. Chinese wingnut is the most suitable tree species for rivers with seasonal fluctuations in southern China. Similar forests used to be found widely in river areas of different sizes. However, over the past several decades most of these forests have disappeared as a consequence of the hardening and channeling of waterways. This is the only forested areas that have survived on the Fengle River. When the spring flood comes, the forest stands in flooded river, vividly reproducing one of the Eight Ancient Xixi’nan Scenes, the “Spring Flood Deep in Mountains.” I have often wandered in the forest after the flood season, deeply breathing in the mushroom smell in the air, gazing towards the old bridges, cottages, and distant mountains, feeling like I am in the dream of Huizhou, a dream so close to reality!
The second chapter is the vegetable gardens planted on the edge of the village. A variety of vegetables are grown in the dense garden plots, including radish, greens, eggplant, pepper, garlic, onion, ginger, soybeans, and peanuts. Clumps of cowpeas and cucumbers are tidily set up on holders. These plots range in size and are scattered by height, yet they remain orderly and well-regulated, mimicking the rows of tiled roofs. The women picking peas chat with each other across the trellises, or exchange their gains. The vegetable garden is an extension of the neighborhoods. It is a space not only for fruits and vegetables, but also friendship. When moving within the garden, you feel like reading an ordinary yet wonderful story told with artless words and delicate sentences.
The climax of the book is the village itself. Every house acts as a word, the blocks phrases, stringed together by streets to become sentences. These numerous sentences are interspersed north and south, they twist and turn, deeply and quietly, depicting the timeless stories of this place. I often stroll through the village, obsessed by the feeling of being lost in time and place. It is a leisurely, probing and pleasant kind of lost, just like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with no panic or anxiety. Every brick wall, every piece of the worn paving, every door with god stone tablets to ward off evil spirits in the corner, every step of the stone dock, every broken plinth or stone mortar is hints at the next storyline. The once wealthy village, whose fame is widespread in the area south of Yangtze River area, flourished with poetry and painting, quietly telling the story of its glorious but tragic past.
The material and spiritual bond that links these three chapters together is the water system. Xi Zhu, a famous poet of the Song Dynasty, whose ancestors lived in the ancient Huizhou area, most accurately manifested the spirit and form of water in Xixi’nan in his poetry Reflections on Reading:
A square pond opens up like a mirror, clear and bright;
Shadows of the skylight and clouds reflected together into it, shining and shaking.
“Why is the water body so clear?” you may ask —
For the continuous flow upstream from its source.
The woods to the north of the village, the gardens on the edge, the homes and streets within the village come to life thanks to the intelligence of water. The flowing water comes from the main peak of the Mount Huangshan, the only stream in the upstream area of Xin’an River originating from the mount. Its clarity and beauty is made all the more exquisite through Xixi’nan’s water system developed over a thousand years. The system channels the river water into the village, and then separates it through a system of ancient weirs and fish-mouth dikes. The water is then sent through a stone barrier to ensure water supply during both drought and flood. The water inlet area consists of a bridge, a temple, a stone dock, and a large tree, looking like a weighty exclamation mark. From here, water flows to every house, it is channelized into courtyards, patios or ponds, or forming into another of the Eight Ancient Xixi’nan Scenes, “The Moon in Clear Water.” Finally, the water flows into downstream farmland and ponds for irrigation use.
The landscape is a book, and every village has its own. There are millions of beautiful villages and rural landscapes in China, some hundreds years old. Their books have been written by hundreds of millions of people, one generation after another, written with tears, sweat, and blood. To read them is to read China, to read our history and our ancestors. To protect them is to protect ourselves. Today, some of these books are dilapidated, full of graffiti, or razed to the ground. I am saddened by our generation’s devastation of these glamorous and meaningful landscape books!