Farmer's knack for thatch gives new life to famed poet's rebuilt cottage

By Huang Zhiling in Chengdu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-06-10 07:33:34

Farmer's knack for thatch gives new life to famed poet's rebuilt cottage

Liu prepares to work with his tools. [Huang Zhiling/China Daily]

His skill as a roof builder and repairer enabled him to earn extra money to rear his son and two daughters. "Harvests from the fields could not result in adequate income for my family," he said.

Zhou Lichun, 49, Liu's co-worker, who also hails from Pixian county, said there were once many cottages outside the grounds of the Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum. Thatched roofs were ubiquitous in rural Sichuan, as they are warm in winter and cool in summer.

Rapid urbanization has eliminated the cottages beyond the museum and in many parts of the countryside near Chengdu. Many farmers now live in apartment buildings made of steel and concrete.

"Each year, I work for less than 30 days as a thatched cottage roof builder and repairer. Most of the time, I build and repair thatched cottage roofs in rural resorts that serve as teahouses, restaurants and hotels for tourists," Liu said.

He once had seven apprentices. But now only two occasionally work on thatched roofs.

"It is very likely that few people will be able to build and repair thatched cottage roofs in 10 years, as there are fewer and fewer thatched cottages and few young people like the dirty job," said Wu Mingyang, 53, who repairs houses at the museum.

Thatch itself is also in short supply. It was once available around Chengdu, but now is difficult to get near the city. When the museum started the rebuilding and repair of more than 10 thatched cottages and pavilions in early January, it had to purchase the 3,500 kg of needed thatch from Suining, a hilly city 170 km from Chengdu.

"One kg of thatch costs 8 yuan ($1.20). And the museum had to order it half a year before the rebuilding and repair project started," museum curator Jia Lan said.

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