15-year vocation of seeking hometown in memory reveals the past of Guyuan

Do you still remember the ambience of your hometown? Or has it undergone such unprecedented development that it has become completely different from how it was in your childhood? Do you miss the hometown of your memory? Tang Yongxiang is deeply in love with his hometown of Guyuan in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. To commemorate the city in which he grew up and had many memorable experiences, Tang decided to make an exact replica in brick, with no detail left out – every alley and building is here in miniature, including the ancient Guyuan Great Wall. The project took him 15 years to complete.

Every morning at weekends, senior resident of Guyuan in Ningxia Hui autonomous region Tang Yongxiang shows up at the Guyuan ancient Great Wall site. Many city residents have heard of him because he is known as "the man who knows almost everything about the city". Tang is walking around the area in which the First Emperor of Qin, in the Warring States Period, declared the construction of the Great Wall.

Unfortunately, over the years this part of the ancient Great Wall has been damaged by the elements. It's now hard to see the shape of the original structure, and the only remnant visible is a small dirt road winding up the mountain.

Being born and growing up in Guyuan, Tang is obsessed with everything of his hometown and never stops learning about it. In the past 20 years, he says that visiting the Guyuan Great Wall on weekends has become his routine.

"When I was a child, I lived in southern Guyuan, and I spent a lot of my leisure at what was left of the Great Wall. Sometimes, I walked or ran around Guyuan along the outer city walls. My childhood memory about the city will never be blurry." Tang says.

As the city has developed, Guyuan has gone through numerous changes; Tang Yongxiang says the city of his memory is gradually vanishing. And this is why he is now determined to make an exquisite replica of the Guyuan city from his memory from several decades ago. It has the added bonus that future generation will get the opportunity to find out what it once looked like.

"I learnt how to sculpt when I was young, so I decided to make a replica to show the original structure and architecture of Guyuan. I bought bricks of the ancient city wall from private collectors as the main material to make the replica. I went through many historical documents on the city's structure." Tang explains.

To achieve his ambition, the first step was to ascertain exactly how the city originally looked, and it took Tang Yongxiang a decade to finish the drawing. To ensure every detail was precise and correct, Tang looked for every last relevant document and interviewed as many old people as he could find who might have some clue about the city's former appearance, including the style, look and location of every memorial archway in Guyuan and the shape of the Great Wall. Looking at the finished drawing, Tang Yongxiang recalls coming up against a lot of difficulties when seeking information about one gateway.

"I cannot remember how many seniors I asked about what they could remember about the gateway. Even some who had lived right next to it couldn't remember how it originally looked. Eventually, I found useful information in some ancient books. I have since got into the habit of buying books in antique book shops whenever I visit anywhere outside my hometown. I am obsessed." Tang says.

It took ten years before Tang was confident with the final drawing of Guyuan, and then it was time to move on to the next process—engraving the replica of Guyuan. Despite badly hurting two fingers on his left hand while he was carving, Tang says he still holds strong memories about the day he finished his replica. It was a milestone in his life.

"I was extremely excited when it was done and then I cried. Words can't describe how I felt. It was the best, most unforgettable day of my life. Eventually I had accomplished what I had always wanted to do. I don't believe Guyuan locals should forget our hometown. My experience will be a reference for someone who wants to do anything similar." Tang says.

The year 2018 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and in the decades since the region has seen tremendous development. Tang reveals his passion for his hometown in this hand-made replica, a unique version of the city of yesteryear that is still so treasured.

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