Our Chinese Retreat
The Linden Centre occupies the distinguished property of Yang Pin Xiang, and stands as one of the most alluring and pristine examples of vernacular architecture in China. Although the estate has gone through many reincarnations since it was built in the years before the Communist Revolution, the structures were found with the traditional stone and wood features mostly intact. This courtyard estate is one of the first to be incorporated into the tourism economy in the region. It is widely understood to be a model of architectural renovation, cultural conservation, and a primary partner in the sustainable development of the local economy.
The Linden Centre is housed in one of the most pristine and alluring examples of traditional Bai architecture – the Yang Jia Yuan, built by the original owner, Yang Pin Xiang. The Yang complex is protected at both the national and provincial levels, and has appeared in many books, journals and as a setting for television dramas and documentaries. Although the estate has gone through many reincarnations since it was built in the years before the Communist Revolution, the structures were found with the traditional stone and wood features mostly intact. During the chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the military was based in the Yang complex. Thankfully, the Red Guards, intent on destroying the intricate carvings housed within, were unable to enter the complex due to security reasons. The buildings have thus survived unscathed since their conception.
The Lindens targetted Yang Jia Yuan after visiting it in 2004. It took two years of negotiations with both the government and cultural bureau to gain access to these buildings. The Lindens had to convince numerous officials that they would carefully restore the structures to their pre-revolutionary grandeur. Months were spent on drawings and business plans. The government’s unusual willingness to hand over this Type A Relic reflected their confidence in our long-term commitment to and friendship toward China and their desire to develop a new paradigm for restoration. The Linden Centre has since been showcased as a leading example of historic renovation with contemporary functionality.
Bringing modern conveniences to the complex was challenging. A one-inch wide pipe was the only water flowing into the property. Electrical capacity was limited to a few overhead lights. The roofs leaked, the walls were cracked, and fire prevention measures – a prerequisite for our taking over the complex – were non-existent. Culturally sensitive issues such as placement of bathrooms, wall and ceiling colors, and traditional spaces of honor added to our challenges.
A further complication was hiring the appropriate firm to help us restore the buildings. We were advised against using local labor, to avoid misunderstandings that could possibly affect our long-term acceptance in the community. People suggested bringing in workers from eastern China and Sichuan, areas where the workers were considered to be harder-working. However, it was always our desire to work with the locals. We felt that we were becoming part of the Xizhou community and thus wanted to support our neighbors. Throughout the ten months of renovation, we had over 100 workers on site, including a period of six months when 60 plus per day were in the complex. We have been overwhelmed by their diligence and commitment to our project. They are now are neighbors, our advocates and most important, our friends.
The Linden Centre in Xizhou has the support of the local community and government and is being incorporated into the tourism economy in the region. It is widely understood to be a model of architectural renovation, cultural conservation, and a primary partner in the sustainable development of the local economy.