If you have studied Chinese literature in school, you would have memorised poems by Du Fu 杜甫. Even though he stayed in Chengdu for only four years, this city has embraced Du Fu as its own.
The Thatched Cottage Museum 杜甫草堂博物馆 was the place where Du Fu and his family lived for nearly four years to avoid the chaos caused by war. During Song Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, important expansions were made that included the main axis buildings 杜甫草堂主体纪念建筑群中轴线, built in accordance to the poems left behind by Du Fu.
Born in the city οf Gongyi in 712, Du Fu spent 10 years of his life in Xian (then the capital of Tang Dynasty, the olden name Changan) and then moved to Chengdu in order to escape the An-Shi Rebellion in 758. Located on the picturesque bank of Huanhua Brook 浣花溪 “Silk-Washing Stream” outside the Western Chengdu City, and built by Du Fu with the support of his friends, he spent four years in a thatched hut and this period was the most productive in his poetry career.
The poetic cottage is a harmonious combination of man-made and natural landscapes. The original cottage, where Dufu spent his life, was destroyed long ago and the current building dated back to Ming and Qing Dynasties. A temple, 草堂寺 “Thatched Cottage Temple” (now converted to Hall of Odes 大雅堂) was erected in Du Fu’s honour at the original spot the cottage used to be.
The cottage today is elegant and serene and of a grand scale, though simple. Within the residence, there are cloisters. Entering the cottage, what is displayed in front of you are three rooms. In the middle is the bedroom where the owner lives and rests. On the left and right are reception rooms and stoves. In front of the cottage are paths decorated with flowers in the east and bamboo railings along the stream in the west. Behind the cottage are pavilions and ponds.
He composed over 240 poems in four years he stayed in the cottage, which are highly valued in Chinese literature. One of them refers to the site and comes under the name “My thatched hut was torn apart by autumn wind” 「茅屋为秋风所破歌」, which is carved into a stone placed outside the cottage. His works reflected his sorrow and despair about human suffering. He deeply influenced next generation poets, while his poems are still being taught in Chinese schools.
Sichuan Tea Culture and Teahouse
Just behind the thatched cottage is the northern neighbour 草堂北邻, literally. The north neighbour was the courtyard of Huang Siniang, Du Fu’s farmer neighbour. As described in Du’s poem, “Huang Siniang’s family is full of flowers, and their weight presses the branches low” (黄四娘家花满蹊，千朵万朵压枝低); now it is a teahouse. This lone cottage was built for accuracy purpose, together with the Cottage Bookstore 草堂书局 (noted in the map as the southern neighbour 草堂南邻) opposite the brook.
As China’s Capital of Leisure, Chengdu has the largest number of teahouses, and long taken credit for the most comprehensive ones, showcased in the all kinds of sizes, multifarious designs and layouts, warm and attentive services with tea at different prices, exquisite Chinese tea sets, and various fun and refreshing entertainment originated from Sichuan traditional culture and folk customs and arts.
After a long walk around the park, stop and sample a pot of Chinese tea. The one I had was a jasmine tea called 峨眉飘雪 or “snow in Mt Emei”. Very fragrant and light, it’s like Pokka Green Tea without sugar.
Museum of Du Fu Thatched Cottage 杜甫草堂博物馆
Archeological excavations done on the site have unearthed buildings and pavilions that fit the time period when Du Fu lived there and are very similar to structures he describes in his poems.
This exhibition at the Museum right at the front door showcased some of the relics found in that excavation. This was coupled with paintings and calligraphy over the years singing praises to Du Fu.
Du Fu Thatched Cottage Series
Du Fu Thatched Cottage 杜甫草堂 is a museum and memorial for Tang Dynasty poet and politician, Du Fu 杜甫 (712-770 AD). He is known as the Saint of Poetry 诗圣 and had written over 1,400 poems during his lifetime. The memorial is located in a 24 acre (97,000 square meter) park by the side of a stream called the Huanhua Stream 浣花溪 in Chengdu’s western suburb. Du Fu resided in a thatched cottage at the site where he took refuge in Chengdu during a war.
Visited in Dec 2021
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