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Restoration: Rebuilding our Rustic Roof

The roof of the first courtyard is to be removed and replaced, tile by tile, rafter by rafter

As the Yang family compound is pushing 70 years old, and as things tend to fall apart, wooden structures especially so, we will be closing down for annual renovations from November 29 to December 13. The biggest thrust of this year’s annual renovations will be repairing the tile roof of the Linden Centre’s first courtyard. The five months of daily summer showers in the rainy season causes the tiles on our roof to wobble and twist. Over the years, they twist open small holes in the thatching through which the rain runs onto the rafters. As the structures around the first courtyard have not had the roof replaced in between 20 and 30 years (we don’t have exact records from the period our facility was used as military barracks), the leaks have gotten to the point that attention is warranted. Roofs like ours, built during the late Qing Dynasty and Republican period, often have a life span of 20-30 years.

First A Biao’s team will carefully remove and replace each barrel and capping tile (pictured), then seal with lime and straw thatching

The Cultural Bureau certifies local contractors to ensure that protected heritage structures are restored and maintained according to traditional building techniques. Yang Wenbiao (杨文标), “A Biao”, a Xizhou local certified in traditional Bai building techniques, has been working as the head contractor with the Linden Centre since the initial renovation in 2007. A Biao and his team will be spearheading this winter’s restoration effort. They will first remove each tile by hand and remove all the original thatching. Then they will inspect each rafter and beam top and bottom for rot. Any deemed unacceptable will be replaced, in pinewood in the original construction. Once the rafters are solid, A Biao’s team will inspect the tiles that have been removed. Any damaged tile will be replaced by an antique tile produced in Binchuan (宾川, famous for roofing tiles) sourced in the region. As is the tradition, the team will remove and replace the bottom of “water tiles” (水瓦), the top later of “barrel tiles” (筒瓦) and while finishing off with the “capping tiles” (盖瓦) will seal the roof with lime and straw thatching. Hopefully this process, which we completed for second courtyard two years ago, won’t be necessary again for another 20 or 30 years.

 They don’t make them like they used to — the Cultural Preservation Bureau requires us to replace any damaged tiles with matching antique tiles

A Biao and company will also making other minor changes to the offices and employee facilities during the renovations, but no guest rooms will be changed. Our staff will make use of the two weeks to recharge our batteries and investigate new activities, especially outdoor and nature-related activities. Stay tuned.

About Weina Shangguan

Weina is a Marketing Associate and Travel Curator at the Linden Centre. Weina has finished her A.A in Seattle studying Business, and now is taking a gap year working as to find out what is the best vocational combination of her favorites -- food, culture and people.