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Liao Family Villa, the Oldest of Its Kind on Kulangsu, Witnessed a Romantic Relationship[2016-08-19]

    The tiles and trees of the villa have seen the changes that took place in the hundred years on the island.
    The entrance of Building No. 48 is the cave in the middle of the first floor. On the cave there hangs a board which reads “Li Ren Zhai“。
    Lin Yutang and His Wife Liao Cuifeng
    There may hide a romantic story or a touching legend in every red house of various styles, or even under a banian. The scenes flash through people’s mind like a film. The wheel of time, passing through the legendary figures and houses of various styles, Chinese or western, old or new, leaves some traces behind.
    The Liao Family Villa on the Zhangzhou Road also has its own story. It used to be known as the former residence of Lin Yutang, thus making itself a bright star on the Qin Island. The villa also witnessed all the changes that took place on the banks of the Lu River. It is little known that, however, the real owner, during the time full of ups and downs, was also so prestigious that he exerted profound influence on the development of the Qin and Lu islands. The prosperity of the old days has faded away. What impresses people, however, is nothing more than a touching love story. The story is also the most beautiful point about the villa.
    There are so many secrets hidden in the Liao Family Villa. Now we are going to focus on them, telling the stories in the villa to appreciate its charm and glory in the past.
    Liao Family Villa Will be Renovated
    Built in 1880s, the villa, which is situated in No. 44 and 48 on the Zhangzhou Road, is one of the oldest of its kind in Kulangsu. Building No. 44 is a British villa and it looks like a “U”。 The building contains corridors with arches. In the front a living room is sandwiched between two bedrooms and the building has two layers of slope crest. In the back there is a garden with a pool. On both sides of the garden are two-storey finales which are connected with the main room in the front. The entrance of Building No. 48 is the cave in the middle of the first floor. On the cave there hangs a board which reads “Li Ren Zhai“。
    The cornice of the building is elegant and graceful while the banisters on the second floor looks quite simple. The proper height of the underground floor keeps those above the ground from wet and makes them comfortable for people to live in. There are stone steps before the corridor of the main room in the first floor. Around the steps there are banyan, longan and yulan, which make the building cool and cosy with the shadows of the trees dancing in the breeze. The government has decided to seize the opportunity given by the application to renovate the historic building, and people will soon see its new look.
    Note: The materials in the report above come from scholars working for the application and they have been checked with other references including the texts related to the application and literature about Kulangsu.
    The Ups and Downs of a Family
    The weather-bitten villa in our eyes seems to be a little bit dilapidated. The only thing that can say something about its prosperity in the past is the European style, as well as the wide stone steps with proper slope. In the villa there lived generations of Liao Family, and many of them were outstanding figures.
    You may come across visitors for Lin Yutang on the narrow Zhangzhou Road. But few of them understand, the real owner of the villa can be much more famous than they expected on the Lu Island, in Kulangsu and across the Lu River.
    Liao’s Ancestors Started Their Business in Nanyang
    The two buildings mentioned above were bulit in 1880s, and was later bought by Liao Yuefa, the father- in-law of Lin, and this is how Liao Family Villa came from. Liao Yue was the second generation after his family came to Xiamen from Longxi, Fujian. At first, his father, Liao Zongwen opened a store selling bamboo handcraft, and the boy was helping his father take care of the business. Later on, his elder brother, Liao Qiangxia left for Nanyang, which paved the way for Liao Yuefa’s seeking for wealth in Southeast Asia. After arriving in Indonesia, Qingxia started his own shipyard and a company specialized in foreign trade. Soon, the younger brother came to the country and worked with his brother. They made a lot of fortune. Yuefa finally returned to Xiamen with the money he earned.
    After the return, the man was involved in many fields. For example, he opened his own bank in 1910s. Meanwhile, he also invested in the first wharf of Xiamen and Datong Soybean Sauce Factory. Of course he was also involved in the real-estate business. The No.44 and 48 buildings mentioned above were bought by him when he was still lucky. The villa won appreciation and admiration more than anything else on the island then.
    Men of Talent Came out in Succession
    Unfortunately, the family declined since the company in Indonesia was burned. Worse still, their capital chain broke because people who did foreign trade with the family owed them a lot of money but never returned. Luckily, after they became rich the family attached great importance to the education of the children. What’s more, they were very close the well-known families on the island. It was for this reason that in the family men of talent came out in succession despite the decline. For example, the oldest daughter of Liao Qingxia, Cuie, married Yin Xuepu, one of whose sons was Yin Chengzong, a famous pianist. His second daughter married Lin Jinsheng, the son of pastor Lin Wenren, and gave birth to Lin Junqing, who was known for the voice training system he established himself. However, the most famous one is the legendary marriage of Lin Yutang and Liao Cuifeng, the second daughter of Liao Yuefa. Their relationship also adds an element of romance to the villa.
    Lin Yutang’s Love and Marriage
    Liao Family Villa is known for Lin Yutang while it was recorded in history because of the marriage admired by people. The villa is also romantic as the wedding room of the couple. Stepping into the hall, you will notice the wedding room on your right. Staring at the empty room, you may wonder, who can make things in the past relive in our eyes?
    The Legendary Marriage with Mutual Help
    Lin Yutang is said to be a good man. He is good, because he is loyal, to his wife, and to their love. Of course, this is what she deserves for her unconditional devotion. They are the model that others should learn from. Lin and Liao were engaged in 1915, and this was made possible by Chen Tian’en, who refused Lin’s proposal to his daughter. Chen did this to make up for his decline. Although Cuifeng had fallen in love with the man long time ago, whether she would be happy with the son of a poor pastor still remained a question for her families. (The father of Lin Yutang, Lin Zhicheng was among the first pastors in Banzai Church, Pinghe County, Zhangzhou.) “Whether he is rich or poor does not matter.” She answered. Every man who have heard the words must be touched. Their sweet life together isalso a strong proof that she was right.
    After getting married, Lin Yutang went to study abroad with his wife. Difficult as it might be, their love deepened. During his lifetime, whether rich or poor, Liao Cuifeng never left Lin Yutang alone. The woman, on the other hand, took care of him with great patience. When asked about their sweet marriage, Lin answered in two words. One is “devote“, and the other is “receive“。 You should give your partner whatever you have regardless of what you can get.
    Bitterly Sweet Love
    For Lin, there was a woman who could always pain him. She was Chen Jinrui, the daughter of Chen Tian’en. Chen Tian’en was a successful businessman in Kulangsu. They first met in Shanghai. Lin was a scholar. Chen was a beauty. Everyone who saw them would say they were a perfect match. The lovers were finally torn apart by Chen Tian’en, probably because of the boy’s awkward financial situation, or something else. Though painful, Lin had to accept it all. Since then, the beauty was carefully preserved only in his heart. The girl went to study in America because she was so badly hurt. When 32 she married Fang Xichou, a professor of Xiamen University. She also passed away in Xiamen.
    In his 80s, Lin, though far away in Hongkong, returned to Xiamen to visit Chen Jinrui. Feeling a little bit annoyed, Cuifeng felt pity for her husband because she had already understood what true love is. Nobody is clear about what really happened between Lin, Chen and Liao. Staring at the empty villa, we could only say all those have faded away like a dream.