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Du Fu's cottage prepares for visitors as games near

By Huang Zhiling in Chengdu | China Daily | Updated: 2023-07-25 09:19

Tourists visit the Chengdu Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum in Sichuan province on June 7, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

In anticipation of the Chengdu FISU World University Games, which starts on Friday, the Chengdu Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum in Sichuan province has been holding an orchid exhibition.

During the show, which began on March 3 and will run through Oct 30, more than 1,000 pots of orchids will be on display, according to Chen Tao, an information officer at the museum.

In traditional Chinese culture, orchids are known as one of the "Four Gentlemen", together with the plum, bamboo and chrysanthemum, denoting people of integrity and being the spiritual sustenance of generations of literati.

Visitors to the museum believe that it is very appropriate to hold an orchid exhibition there because Du, who cared about the well-being of the people, was a man of integrity.

Du (712-770) is one of China's most revered poets. He lived during the time in which the Tang Dynasty (618-907), one of China's most illustrious dynasties, had begun to decline. A war waged by two rebel generals from 755 to 763 ravaged many parts of the country.

Du, a native of Gongxian county in Henan province, reached Chengdu in 759 to take refuge from the war. The following year, he built a cottage by the Flower Bathing Brook with financial aid from his friend Yan Wu (726-765), who was a poet as well as a leading official in Sichuan.

Since then, the cottage has been China's most famous literary pilgrimage destination, said a BBC English documentary that premiered on April 6, 2020.

The documentary, Du Fu: China's Greatest Poet, hails him as China's Shakespeare because of his influence on Chinese literature.

While living in the cottage for nearly four years, Du penned 240 of his 1,455 extant poems. Contemporary Chinese poet Feng Zhi thus said: "When people mention Du Fu, they may ignore his place of birth and death, but they can never forget his cottage in Chengdu."

The 20-hectare Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum has a cottage that opened to visitors in 1997 in line with the poet's description in his works.

Famous local architect and painter Liu Weibing said the cottage resembles linpan, the traditional thatched-roofed houses of Sichuan farmers set amid bamboo forests and next to streams. Such dwellings have existed in the area for about 4,700 years.

Mi Li, a college professor based in the United States, had not returned to his hometown Chengdu for four years mainly because of COVID-19.

Coming home in late June, he made a special trip to the museum twice during his eight-day stay in Chengdu and had his wedding photos taken there.

For literature lovers, visiting the museum to see Du's complete works of 1,455 poems engraved on stone tablets is a must.

With an investment of 150 million yuan ($21 million), the Chengdu city government embarked on an ambitious plan to erect tablets with all of Du's poems in the museum and develop the adjacent 32-hectare Flower Bathing Brook Park. The project started in 2015 and was completed in 2018, setting Du's legacy in stone.

The tablets collect Du's works from the many varied stages of his life, according to museum curator Liu Hong.

Starting in his youth, they track his journey from the Tang capital of Chang'an (present-day Xi'an, Shaanxi province), the musings he recorded in his prime and those from his short stint as a middle-aged vagrant in Gansu province.

Also included are the poems he penned over nearly four years in his cottage in Chengdu, the two years he spent in today's Fengjie, Chongqing, from 766 to 768, and his final years in Hunan province before his death in 770.

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