Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva
avezink

Shikumen gateway at 144 Houjia Jie 侯家街 in the old town


Sue Anne's recent visual essay about shikumen doorway decorations reminded me of one doorway I quite like. It is on Lane 144 Houjie Jie.



There is a pair of traditional fish shuang yu 双鱼 ("happiness in marriage") hanging from the stylized ruyi 如意 meaning "as you wish" and "auspicious happiness." This ornament hangs over a vase with three weapons in it. This is ping sheng san ji 平升三级 ("three halberds in a vase" or "rapid promotion"). Two flags tucked behind the vase have been painted over and over, but the one on the right still retains faint stripes. They stand for the five-colored nationalist flag, "five races under one union" 五族共和, adopted in 1912 and abandoned in 1928. The four-character phrase above the gateway leading in from the street – xu ri chu sheng 旭日初升 (not in the picture) – is rather unusual and is used rarely. It means "The day is young."

This was an optimistic family that chose to express their support of the Kuomintang government by mixing old and new symbols. In the 1960s, when all symbolism was subject to scrutiny by the rebellious factions, the Red Guards were, thankfully, too ignorant to decipher the riddles of their grandparents' generation, so the gateway was not vandalized.
Tags: demolition, old town, photo, shikumen
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