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People's Daily Online>>Life & Culture

Surprising discovery

By Wang Kaihao (China Daily)

13:48, April 19, 2012

The gate of Liu Wenhui's mansion, which was a gift from his older brother Liu Wencai. (Wang Kaihao / China Daily)

Liu manor is synonymous with Anren town in Dayi county, on the western outskirts of Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu.

Built circa 1932, the manor spreads over 70,000 square meters and houses five mansions, which belonged to infamous landlord Liu Wencai and his family.

Liu (1887-1949) is often described as "a despot", who had great political influence in the 1930s and '40s and was said to be cruel to his employees and local farmers.

To find out more, I go to Anren to see the manor.

I am wowed by the sheer size of the manor, which demonstrates Liu's wealth. If I don't have a tourist guide with me, I would get lost in the maze-like enclave, where one mansion looks almost identical to the next.

Typical of the architectural characteristics of the houses in western Sichuan during those days, the designs of Liu's mansions are simple, the walls are gray - unlike architecture in bigger cities such as Beijing.

Liu's houses used building materials commonly available during his time, including stones, bricks and wood.

But in spite of its generally simple style, I'm charmed by some of the compound's details. For instance, the eaves, walls and roofs are decorated with paintings, carvings and sculptures, most of which depict countryside life, natural landscapes and auspicious animals, which are believed to bring fortune.

Legend has it that Liu had a water dungeon in his residence, where he punished his employees and local residents. But my tourist guide insists the legend is untrue.

"Some historical records exaggerate the facts," he says.

I also notice the captions introducing the different rooms are very brief. I presume it is because of the controversy he aroused even after his death in 1949.

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