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West side stories (2)

(China Daily)

08:46, December 20, 2012

What distinguishes the Xiguan manor from private homes in other parts of southern China is the entrance: It has three doors, a swinging door similar to a saloon in the American frontier, a sliding gate with horizontal bars to keep the draft in and burglars out, and the real door.

Not surprisingly, kids would use the barred door as an ad hoc playground and the naughty ones might even get their heads stuck between the bars.

Those who lived in Xiguan had money but little political power, which tended to congregate on the east side of town, which was, until recently, known as Dongshan district. So, the merchants would educate their daughters in one of the 300 family schools and marry them to young men who lived on the east.

The practice was obviously so common that the terms “Miss Xiguan” and “Master Dongshan” went into vogue.

Nowadays, visitors would most likely ramble along Shang Xia Jiu High Street, a pedestrian avenue lined with hundreds of tourist-friendly stores.

But even if you are not interested in antiques, artifacts or local crafts, you'll probably be unable to resist the temptation of local snacks. It is said that the variety is so rich, you'll not run out of choices if you tasted one a day.

Well, some of them are available at a typical Cantonese tea and breakfast, so you'd better savor those that you don't find elsewhere.

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