This page last updated 05/16/10

Wenyou Tai

Wenyou Tai = Wènyòu Tài = 文游台 Say "wuhn-yoh tie"

Wenyou Tai A monument to Qin Guan at Wenyou Tai
S Harnsberger photo
Click photo for a Wenyou Tai Slideshow

If you enter Gaoyou from the expressway, you may notice a large group of ancient Chinese buildings on a hill to the east of Wenyouzhong Lu. This complex is Wenyou Tai (aka Wenyou Platform). The story behind Wenyou Tai is a good illustration of the status that Chinese culture gives its scholars and intellectuals.

Wenyou Tai (文wèn = literature, 游yòu = travel, 台tài = platform or terrace) was built in AD 976 during the Northern Song Dynasty XE "Northern Song Dynasty" . It was originally a part of the ancient Taishan Temple, which no longer exists.

 Wenyou Tai’s claim to fame arises from a gathering in 1084 of four noted scholars, Su Shi, a famous writer, calligrapher, and poet in Song Dynasty; Qin Guan, a famous poet originally from Gaoyou; and two other scholars, Sun Jue, and Wang Gong. They drank wine, discussed literature, wrote, and generally enjoyed themselves. Most accounts describe it as a bit of a party.

Later, the famous stone-engraver, Qian Yong engraved some of the resulting works on the walls of the building just below the highest building on the hill. The walls also contain calligraphies by Su Dongpo, Huang Tingjian, Mi Fei, Qing Shaoyou, Zhao Zi'ang, and Dong Qichang. During the Cultural Revolution these engravings were painted over to protect them from destruction, preserving them for enjoyment today.

The men who met at Wenyou were all quite notable figures in Chinese history. The Gaoyou favorite is the poet Qin Guan. He was the student of Su Shi, and was an authority in the “Graceful and Restraint Style” of Chinese poetry or Cì (词). Qin Guan wrote many widely known, and beautiful, Cì’s. The people of Gaoyou take special pride in the one time resident, and maintain Wenyou Tai primarily in his memory.

This story of a gathering of great minds has made Wenyou Tai a famous place of interest. Since the time of that historic gathering, it has attracted scholars from all over China. The complex was restored in 1990, the and it has since become an important culture relic and historical site, protected by the Jiangsu Province.

There are quite a few ancient buildings on Wenyou Tai, with many containing original handwriting, paintings, and engravings. The uppermost building is the most interesting, with the room where the writers met, and a model of Han dynasty tombs found near Gaoyou. On a clear day, there are great views of the Grand Canal and Gaoyou. Also at Wenyou Tai is the Memorial of the 1931 Floods at Gaoyou and a small gift shop that sells Chinese language books.

Copyright 2009 - Charles Day