A rare 300 year old courtyard mansion, lovingly restored in the heart of Wuyuan county, China. This house has seen the rise and fall of the Qing empire, the Nationalists, Communists and Modernity all glide past its front door. Isolated from the carnage of the 20th century by the misty Wuyuan mountains, experience China as it was. Brought lovingly into the 21st Century with 14 modern bedrooms, We invite you to come and share this utterly unique experience with us.
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Wuyuan is a county of ancient villages in the Jiangxi countryside. We are located in Yan village, (Sixi Yancun scenic area) a protected 900 year old village which cars can not enter.
Wuyuan Rail: Taxis gather around the high speed railway station in Wuyuan town. It takes 25 minutes to reach the village. Wuyuan train station has direct trains to Beijing (7 hours) and Shanghai (4 hours) and Huangshan (22 mins) on the new high speed network.
Jingdezhen Airport: 90 minutes by taxi to Yan village
Huangshan Tungxi Airport: 70 minutes by taxi to Yan village
To find out more about how an Englishman got lost up in the hills of rural China, and how one goes about restoring an early Qing mansion.
Following our wedding in a Chinese City and a Chinese village, it was time to seal my title as the most married man in the world and have one last go at it. Get the band back together, make the difficult second sequel, where they tie it all back to the beginning. Dartmoor's wild and roaring countryside is a place special to the Gawne heart, so we booked a weekend in at Colehaye's park, just beneath Hay Tor for a belter of a weekend.
If you've lived in abroad for a while, you'll know what a treat it can be to come home again. For a while, an Englishman can wallow in his rose tinted visions of old country pubs, clean air, wandering lonely clouds and endless wheat fields; to forget all about Brexit, chavs and rail replacement bus services. It can seem for but a fleeting glimpse that Jerusalem was indeed builded here, on this Isle, full of noises, sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not... English country weddings are perhaps the place to really wallow in this sense of my homeland at its best.
Our guests list was drawn from far and wide - a healthy Chinese contingent travelling 20 strong, further adorned with Europeans, Americans and more. The Chinese were undone by, of all things, French punctuality, causing them to miss their connecting flight in Paris. Under different circumstances, I would have found it endlessly amusing to watch a gaggle of middle aged Chinese travellers, without a word of English between them, negotiating French industrial action rail replacement buses and Westcountry English. But in this case I must only respect their managing to arrive, on time, with 6 hours to go until kick off. Special mention must also go to Daniel O'Brien, for flying in to the UK for a total of 36 boisterous hours from Chicago, leaving 9 hours to spare before his first day on the job at an investment bank.
Finally, one nameless guest who was plucked out of his slumber on the Monday morning sleeping in the front drive in his boxer shorts, T shirt and one shoe. Excellent effort.
It was up to us to show the best of British - hog roast, curry, free bar, lake swimming, live music, bad dancing, long summer nights, country houses, cakes, cheese, picnics, starry nights, stories, a dash of derring-do, no confirmed fisticuffs and a seemingly unstoppable bottle of brandy. I think we made a bloody good fist of it.
Our Chinese guests possibly found this overwhelming in places - they seemed particularly lost as the band started playing and they all pulled seats up to watch, but its amazing what a few well placed glasses of champers can do. Their own performance of 茉莉花 (Jasmine Flower) took the crowd by storm. I was personally a bit miffed when a friend told me he thought delivering a bi-lingual wedding speech in Chinese and English to be 'an excellent party trick'.
After a few lemon Shandies, I reflected on the weekend with a friend who had spent a decorated career in the Armed Forces. He observed that such personal gatherings, where people connect organically and over shared love of family are where cultures can really connect. He had spent decades in stuffy rooms full of uniformed proud mend diplomats attempting build bridges, but in his eyes its all guff compared to twirling a young Chinese lady around to Dire Straits covers in a tent.
Having nervously proposed on a beach in Devon, England at the end of 2016 - 2017 was too be a belter of a year.
We were to buy our first home - the tumbledown 300 year old, (at best) 'sleeping beauty' that was to become the Wuyuan Skywells. We were going to forsake our careers in Shanghai in marketing, to run a boutique hotel deep in the countryside. Moreover, we were to be married.
Following intense deliberations surrounding wedding dates, which focussed largely on lucky numbers, lunar calendars, pleasant weather, flight schedules and time for us to get our act together whilst at the same time moving things along promptly enough to quiet the discontent of elderly Chinese relatives - we settled on May. Invites were written, envelopes were licked and friends from around the world were invited to share the day with us.
A corral of Sussex university amigos, family and boyhood friends made the trip in my support, a full 30 in all. A fruitful and wholesome stag do was held in Shanghai (pictured below), and then it was on to the main event.
Its difficult to prepare Western audiences for the OTT grandeur a Chinese wedding can offer. Clocking in at some 600 guests total, the Swiss Hotel Nanchang told us we were the largest they have had. It is of course, not the size of the wedding party that matters, but what you do with it - and ours was a true extravaganza. I'm glad my travelling entourage got to experience fancy Baijiu, a true Chinese banquet, 'Gan Bei', KTV, outfit changes, and a wedding compere who dabbles in Saxophony.
For their part, demands to provide some sort of 'English performance' were met with initial delight and leisurely perusals through The Bard's canon. (I believe we had agreed on a section from The Tempest). With days to to go however, heads still throbbing from the aforementioned Shanghainese revelrie and no Caliban in sight, discretion was noted to indeed, be the better part of valour.
The fury down the phone from Selina's father alerted me to the fact we were facing a minor diplomatic incident, and a performance was indeed required. His many hundreds of business connections were travelling from all over China to watch English people do something on stage through a drunken haze, and by god we were going to give it to them! Who knew that clowning about with beers on the bund in Shanghai would pay off so handsomely. The human pyramid performed, impromptu at the peak of our night on the tiles, was recycled to rapturous applause from the assembled guests, now clear on the finer points of the traditional English wedding pyramid.
Southern China every year takes a deep breath, tightens its rain coat and steps into the blast of the rainy season. And when it rains, it surely pours. This year did not disappoint, with our newly restored roof being given a thorough workout (and coming through with flying colours, I might add).