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Kunming to restore Wenmiao

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The pavilion at the rear of Wenmiao Tea Garden
The pavilion at the rear of Wenmiao Tea Garden

The semi-forgotten temple compound that was once the heart of old Kunming is slated for a major restoration, with initial construction work set for June 2012.

Restoration plans for Wenmiao (文庙), which is now known as the Wenmiao Tea Garden, are currently being drawn up, according to a Netease report.

The first Wenmiao in Kunming was built during the Yuan Dynasty, not far from the location of the Wenmiao Tea Garden. More than 300 years ago it was moved to its present location at 96 Renmin Zhong Lu. Very little of that Wenmiao compound has survived the turbulence of the last century.

Currently, the only surviving remnants of the old Wenmiao are the Lingxing Gate (棂星门) that faces out onto Renmin Zhong Lu and the Pan Pool (泮池), a small green body of water with a bridge and pavilion in the rear of the complex.

Pan Pool
Pan Pool

Today the Wenmiao Tea Garden is a daily meeting place for many of Kunming's elder residents, who stop by to drink tea while socializing, playing majiang or singing and dancing.

A century ago Wenmiao sat at the center of the city, which planners described as resembling a large south-facing tortoise.

French Consul Auguste François, who was stationed in Kunming at the beginning of the 20th century, drew this detailed map of Kunming in 1900:

Wenmiao occupies the center of the map, with Green Lake nearby, to the northwest. As the center of the old city, Wenmiao played a key role in ancient Kunming's fengshui.

Zhao Junjun (赵军军), director of the Kunming Municipal Culture Hall, said that the new Wenmiao will serve as a "center for intangible cultural heritage protection and display", while still serving as a public activity center.

Wenmiao Tea Garden is popular with Kunming's older residents
Wenmiao Tea Garden is popular with Kunming's older residents

The restoration of Wenmiao is reported to have a budget of 350 million yuan (US$55 million). Zhao said that all efforts will be focused on rebuilding the original Wenmiao using the materials that were available three centuries ago. Restoration plans will be based upon historical photos.

No completion time for the new Wenmiao has been announced. Wenmiao Tea Garden will not be closed during the restoration work, Zhao said.

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