A little while ago I posted some photos of doors from Rajasthan, India, and tonight I thought I would show you some pictures of very different doors.
Ping Yao is a small Chinese city situated several hundred miles south-west of Beijing. This ancient walled city is notable for its old buildings and for having the only remaining Ming dynasty city fortifications in China that are broadly intact. The area encompassed by the city walls has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ping Yao was once a wealthy banking centre and has many fine buildings, both domestic and public. A good number of these have now been restored and are open to tourists.
In traditional Han-Chinese homes, the outer door from the street does not lead into a building but into a courtyard. Members of an extended family would live in different buildings around this courtyard. The residences of wealthy families would have a succession of inner courtyards, each with rooms leading off. These photographs were taken in the unrestored parts of the city, a few show the entrances to grand buildings but others are from very modest homes. All bear marks of the passage of time and many decades of neglect.
Unlike private homes, the street doors of shops open directly into the building. These shop doors typically featured a lot of intricate carving.
Today, as Ping Yao develops as a tourist destination, there are many buildings being restored. From what I could see this was being done well in a technical sense, with the use of traditional methods, materials and designs being strictly enforced. This is in stark contrast to much “restoration” in China, which often draws more on fiction than local tradition for inspiration. Even when accurately restored, however, I fear that much is being lost. Those who want to feel the age and history of a place like Ping Yao might have to go soon before these wonderful time-weary buildings are replaced by perfect modern facsimiles.
Related post: Indian Doors