The area around Jiuxian has been settled for around 1 000 years, while the current village dates from the 15th Century Ming dynasty. The grey brick houses we can see today were built during the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911), while the mud brick houses were built later.
Although it may seem a sleepy backwater now, Jiuxian used to occupy a position of some importance. The name Jiuxian itself translates as Ancient County as the village used to be the county capital, and the houses that now comprise the Secret Garden belonged to wealthy landlords.
You’ll notice that the buildings have a fortified appearance from the exterior in order to protect their well-to-do owners, while inner courtyards provided common areas for work and play. The buildings were arranged with public areas towards the front, more private family areas in the middle, and areas for servants and animals towards the back.
During the Japanese invasion in the late 1930s the wealthy landlords hid their valuables and moved into caves or built fortifications on top of the mountains. After the war they returned to their houses, but another social change occurred with the founding of New China in 1949. The 1950s brought the era of collectivisation, where houses were confiscated and divided amongst several poorer families.
The great progress made in China’s economic development took a lot longer to reach this part of the country, and the buildings had fallen into disrepair with their owners not having the money to repair them. The local building regulations forbade building on farm land, so with no extra room available for houses the villagers found it cheaper and more desirable to knock down their old house in order to build a new one. Now, with the arrival of Fengzi and changing attitudes and financial situations the value of these buildings has been recognised, and we are sure these buildings will be around for future generations to enjoy.