Hidden treasures and ancient stories of the Hainan countryside

By / HICN / Updated: 17:37,17-May-2022

Many ancient objects may no longer be used in daily life, but they still show traces of their past, and carry the memories of times gone by, giving them a historic and cultural value that is hard to ignore.

The Xibian Folk Museum in Wancheng Town, Wanning City, and the Dragon Kiln Museum in Huangliu Town, Ledong Li Autonomous County will take you on a journey back in time as you view antique pieces of furniture, farming tools, pottery, and fragments of other ancient items, leading you to contemplate the inner world of their original users, allowing you to get a glimpse into their daily lives, and to enter into dialogue with their spirits, which live on in the things they left behind.

Yazhou deeds from the late Qing Dynasty and early Ming Dynasty in the Qiongnan History and Culture Folk Museum. Photo by Chen Geng.

Xibian Folk Museum - Retaining the wisdom of the elders

While participating in the Beautiful Homeland project, Xibian village resident Wen Shengfei thought about how to retain the village’s culture. To make sure that the local culture would not be lost, Wen Shengfei opened the Xibian Folk Museum in cooperation with the Xibian Village Farmers’ Cooperative. The musuem holds a special collection of antique items related to farming and daily life.

Although many of these items are no longer used in the daily lives of the village residents, in Wen Shengfei's view, as these objects were made by village elders and used for many years in farm work and other household tasks, they vividly show how life was lived here in the past and have great educational value for the next generation.

Wanning Xibian Folk Museum. Photo by Luo Anming.

In the Xibian Village Museum, you can view antique furniture, a variety of jars, pots, pans, and many farm tools. Wen Shengfei said that the museum displays a total of 400 items related to village farm work and life such as dustpans, manure baskets, rice sieves, grain sieves, chopstick holders, jars, wine altars, ox yokes, hulling machines, clothing made of woven rushes, grain jars, oil lamps, and hats.

Wen worked hard to collect and preserve these old, unused objects. "When I have free time, I go to old houses in the countryside around Wanning to ask for these antiques,” said Wen.

Wen spent half a month waiting for a set of old Chinese square tables until the owner didn’t need them anymore, then he spent 800 RMB to purchase them. The antique collection is funded by the income of the village collective, which owns the items in the museum.

Nowadays, when you come to Xibian Village, you can really get a feel for the local culture, see objects once used by village elders in the Xibian Folk Museum, and pay your respects to the portrait of Confucius in Xibian Study House, where children practice calligraphy, learn about the past lives of local farmers, view antique farming implements, and study folk wisdom. To finish off your stay in style, you can savor a cup of Hainan-style coffee at the Sheep Bar Café in Xibian Village.

Inside the Huangliu Dragon Kiln Museum in Ledong. Photo by Chen Geng

Huangliu Dragon Kiln Museum - showing the ancient role of pottery in local life

Located at the foot of Jinji Peak in Ledong, the Huangliu Dragon Kiln Museum was founded in 2010 by local farmer Rong Zuxin of Xinmin Village, and was initially called the ‘Yazhou Millennium Dragon Kiln Collection Museum’. At present, there are over 2,200 pieces of ancient pottery in the museum’s collection, most of which were made and used locally. Rong personally collected these items by traveling to more than 230 Li and Han villages in southwest Hainan over nearly 30 years, visiting thousands of households to search for antique pottery.

According to the book ‘Hainan’s Ancient Pottery’, Huangliu Town's Xinmin Village is the site of the Sanqugou kiln, which was active during the Tang, Song, and Ming Dynasties. Three dragon kilns have already been found here, as well as items such as a gray jar with six frogs & ears and dark purple glazed jar. Rong Zuxin named his museum for the dragon kilns, which were the source of much of the museum’s collection.

The museum collection includes pottery jars, bowls, urns, and other items that were used in the daily lives of the locals over a thousand years ago, all of which were unearthed at local kiln sites or collected from farmers in western Hainan. Rong once received a group of pottery bowls for the Li pottery collection engraved with Chinese names. Based on these names, it can be inferred that the Li community had commissioned some pottery from the dragon kilns of Han Chinese settlers in the past.

Engraved city bricks at the Western Hainan History and Culture Folk Museum. Photo by Chen Geng.

On January 22, 2014, Li Shiyan, an archaeologist and member of the Cultural Relic Management Committee of the former Laiwu City (now Laiwu District, Jinan City) in Shandong Province, visited the Baisha Valley Museum in Fuluo Town in Ledong, where he learned that there was an ancient kiln site in Huangliu Town. He went to see it with several local collectors, including Yuan Jinhua, Ji Chenghu, Cai Ning, Zhou Changzheng, and Rong Zuxin, and they discovered a large number of pieces of pottery dating back to the Tang and Song dynasties. In the same year, when Rong Zuxin and villagers Xing Zengxiu and Xing Zenghong conducted a second search, they found a fragment of a broken ceramic lampstand with several names engraved on it - Du Hao, Wang Dexing, Du Guojin, and Du Lianhuan - and deduced that it might be an engraving left by kiln workers in ancient times.

Artifacts from the ancient dragon kiln in Xinmin Village are not only held by the private museums of locals such as Yuan Jinhua, Zhou Changzheng, Cai Ning, and Rong Zuxin, but also by the Hainan Provincial Museum, the Hainan Ethnic Museum, the Sanya Municipal Museum, the Dongfang Municipal Museum, and the Changjiang County Museum.



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