Huizhou Merchants and Confucian Intellectuals
The highly developed architectural culture at Huizhou isn’t an occasional phenomenon; the most important inner cause is the rise of Huizhou merchants with Confucian style. Being different from the merchants from Shanxi Province, merchants of Huizhou had an extroverted character because they came from a region where land is limited whereas the population is great, which forced them to leave their homeland to do business.
Well cultured and educated, merchants of Huizhou were sharp-sighted, faithful, good at business, and understood that “becoming rich for developing Confucianism and being official for protecting business”. So, they were very successful both in business and in officialdom. They engaged in salt, tea, pawn and publication businesses. The fortune was concentrated more and more in their hand.
The stable economic foundation gave an impetus to culture’s development and in turn, progressive culture promoted Huizhou merchants’ opening spirit in external intercourse and made economy more prosperous. A large amount of Huizhou dwellings were built depending on Huizhou merchants’ solid economic power.
Influenced by Huizhou merchants’ cultural quality, these buildings are refined but not vulgar nor extravagant. Ancestral halls, memorial archways and colleges – those buildings with most Huizhou characteristics could sufficiently develop only relying on Huizhou merchants’ multiple identities – merchant, intellectual and official.
Xu Guo (Xu Guo was from Shexian county.) Memorial Archway was built in commemoration of the minister and grand secretary Xu Guo’s meritorious service in the Ming Dynasty, with the approval of the emperor. Other typical buildings of this kind include Baolun Pavilion at Chengkan Village, South Lake College at Hongcun Village, and many other Huizhou merchants’ houses. All of them were built not only on the base of their fortune, but a result of all-round prosperity of economy, patriarchal clan system, culture and arts.