For any building project, the builders are obviously the meat and gravy to the project. As much as we like to think of ourselves as some kind of ‘driving force’ behind the restoration, our builder is make-or-break to our success. Having had my fair amount of experience with English builders called Garry who take a creative approach to timekeeping and a fondness for tea and biscuits, I approached the Chinese village environment with an open mind.
We met with 5 contractors over all – some were fair, some chancers, (and one particularly arrogant) but when we met Yu You Hong – we instantly knew we’d found our man. He is humble, intelligent, hard working and best of all generally a nice guy to be around. Finally, his experience speaks for itself, and to stand in a house he has restored is to have your breath taken away.
He is a man in much demand. Money is not his North Star – he’s built a very comfortable life for himself, but is now working to fund a future for his grandchildren. What is important to him is if he believes in our vision or not – working with authentic tools, craftsmen and techniques, and if we respect the Hui architecture as much as he does. We needed our best schmoozing for6 months from our first meeting in late 2015 to finally persuading him to take the job in the mid 2016. The usual channels of Baijiu and cheap cigarettes have no effect on him, making our courtship particularly tricky. Some things move quickly in the village. Others move slowly.