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Guo's Centennial House Near Lotus Pond

Guo's Centennial House Near Lotus Pond

◎Written by Hou Ya-ting

◎English translation by Lin Yu-ciao

◎Photos by Hou Ya-ting

 

 

 Hidden in the alleyways near Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung's Zuoying District, tourists may stumble across Guo's Centennial House, a guesthouse built in 1909. This 112-year-old landmark is listed as one of 17 homestays in the city which displays “historical and cultural significance.

 Guo's Centennial House is a traditional Southern Fujian-style three-section compound house, known in Chinese as a sanheyuan. The main hall in the middle is the core. According to custom, the left and right sides of the main hall should accommodate senior members of the family. When the space there was insufficient, wings perpendicular to the main hall were added to provide rooms for the younger generation. This traditional configuration reflects ethical concepts, and the courtyard space in the middle is called cheng.

 Guo Jin-ji, the fourth-generation owner of Guo's Centennial House, grew up in this ancient abode. When he was a child, more than 20 people lived in the house. He played with his relatives' children and commuted to school by train. He knew when the train was approaching the station because of the steam locomotive's distinctive sound. 

 Guo's delightful childhood and affection toward the ancient house inspired him to embark on a renovation effort about nine years ago, after he realized that the compound had gradually become abandoned.

 This century-old residence is rich in cultural memories. The compound's original name, “Mei Kuei,” was chosen by the first generation of the Guo family and neighbors who had also migrated from Quanzhou in Fujian.

 Guo Jin-ji said that, during the Japanese occupation, the Guo family held the post of baozheng in the colonial government's Hoko system. The baozheng was responsible for public order and environmental hygiene in the neighborhood.

 The double-opening wooden door on the far right of the main hall is a feature associated with the post of baozheng. Guo said it is fortunate it has been preserved, so people can better understand the history of this ancient house.

 The main hall's brick walls are carved with bats, an auspicious motif. When they look at the hall, visitors are amused to see a small square hole. It was cut through the wall so cats could come and go, and keep the mouse population under control.

 When guests step into this red-brick, red-tile old house, they always take a lot of photos, Guo said. Their words show they take comfort in the building's preservation. Each evening, guests sit on a long bench, gather in the courtyard for a cup of tea, chat about life, enjoy this traditional space, and look up at the stars. It is Guo's hope that this ancient building can be preserved for long-term, so that young people can experience the life space and culture of a traditional abode.

     Zuoying Lotus Pond Guo's Centennial Three-Section Residential Compound   
    No. 27, Ln. 110, Dianzaiding St., Zuoying Dist., Kaohsiung City