Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 94: Feeling
Unlike the idyllic Chinese farmhouse exterior, the interior is carefully renovated.
Since Zhang Siyi is more in touch with design trends, he can easily tell that the inside was designed by a professional that specialized in interior spaces. The specific style of the interior was hard to describe as there were both traditional Chinese details, Japanese-style places and modern designed areas. Even though there were modern elements in contrast to the traditionally designed ones, the interior space was very harmonious.
For example, in the kitchen area, there was a large glass panel that was hanging from the ceiling to help isolate kitchen fumes. Even though the implementation of the wall was high-tech and modern, the panel itself has a matte finish with an ancient Chinese landscape sandblasted onto the glass.
Except for the visible kitchen behind the glass, the layout of the house is sparse with only two areas to accommodate guests. One area is fashioned traditionally with a Chinese square table and other traditional elements. The other area has an elevated platform with a passage that surrounds a large rectangular table. In this way, guests can feel like they are sitting on a Japanese-style tatami mat without having to remove their shoes.
Although the place setting welcomed them, no one sat down. Old Chiang intended for them to sit at the large rectangular table as there were five place settings consisting of bowls and chopsticks there. Since they weren’t it a hurry to sit down, they wanted to continue exploring the interior.
Dressed in rough clothes, Old Chiang came out from behind the glass to greet everyone: “You are free to look around. Upstairs is the tea house. I’m still preparing the food and it will take another twenty minutes. Old Four can bring you upstairs in the meantime.”
Zhang Siyi: “…” Old Four? Who? Gu Yu?
“Don’t worry, take your time. I’ll take them up for a cup of tea.” Gu Yu took off his jacket, hung it on the rack near the entrance, then flipped a switch. The question of ‘up-stairs’ was answered as the glow of the lamps hanging down from above, showed the way up.
The edge of the staircase was surrounded by thin, vertical wooden slats. In the dark, at first it looked like a partitioned wall, however when the lights were turned on, the light coming through the gaps in the slats made the wall glow making the wall look like a glowing harp.
They marveled at the staircase sculpture as they followed Gu Yu up. On the second floor, there were three tea tables separated by wooden frames and curtains. A wide variety of small handmade sculptures decorated the room. In addition, one wall was wholly comprised of bookshelves from top to bottom. There was a poetic quote in beautiful script written on another one of the walls.
Gu Yu led the group to sit at one of the tables then went to pick out a tea. Zhang Siyi went over to the round window and looked outside. From this point of view, he could see, like a glittering pearl in mud, the moon reflected in the large water tank that was in the backyard. By looking at the picturesque scene, Zhang Siyi momentarily forgot about his troubles of the outside world.
Rummaging through the shelves, Gu Yu picked out leaves and a tea set on the shelf. He put the water on to boil and asked them to sit.
Gu Yao was the first to inquire: “Brother, who was that? Your classmate?
Gu Yu: “Well, we lived in the same dormitory.”
Gu Yao: “How come I haven’t met him?”
Gu Yu: “He wasn’t in Haicheng for the reunion last Christmas.”
Zhang Siyi sat down and asked: “So he also studied architecture?”
Gu Yu nodded and smiled at him: “This place is his own handi-work; from design to construction to decoration.”
He Xueying was surprised: “He built it himself?”
Aside from Gu Yu, everyone else was shocked. Indeed, in a modern city with a clear division of labor, it seems like an incredible feat to be able to build a house by yourself from the ground up.
Gu Yu said: “Since he is a licensed architect, this small building isn’t difficult. You just need a few carpenters to help build it.”
Zhang Siyi closed his wide-open mouth: “With this talent, how can he not do architecture?”
Gu Yao nodded: “Yeh. Why did he open a restaurant if he is so good at architecture?”
Gu Yu proposed a question: “An architect can’t open a restaurant? Everyone has their own pursuit. He didn’t want to design buildings seriously. Instead, he wanted to open a restaurant. He is free to choose what he wants.”
As Gu Yu finished his statement, Old Chiang came up with a plate of fruit and handed it to Gu Yu. He smiled at them: “Drink tea first. I’ll call you when ready.”
Everyone thanked him and watched Old Chiang hurriedly go down the stairs. He Chengtian frowned and asked: “Since this place is so remote, does anyone ever come?”
Gu Yu raised an eyebrow: “Are we not people?”
He Chengtian: “I don’t mean that! I mean your classmate; how can he make money?”
Since entering this eatery, everyone can’t help but worry about whether or not the restaurant is profitable and whether it will be open for a long time, but only He Chengtian voiced his opinions outright. The restaurant was like a lost treasure and with its joyous discovery, it makes one want to share with others in hopes that they will also appreciate it.
Sipping the tea slowly, Gu Yu sighed with relief, then looked up at He Chengtian. He said: “If I told you, Old Chiang did not open this restaurant for profit, would you believe me?”
Obviously, He Chengtian does not believe it: “Not for profit? How can he live?”
Gu Yu selected a piece of fruit from the dish and started peeling it. He said: “Is it not easy to live? Since he is an architect, he has his own means of earning a living. We are all grown-ups here. Why are you worried about how he lives his life?” Gu Yu put a few slices in his mouth and chewed. Swallowing, he continued: “Opening a restaurant is something he has longed to do from a young age. Making money wasn’t the point. He likes to entertain guests and treat them as friends, not as customers. “
Even though He Chengtian listened to the words spoken by Gu Yu, he completely did not understand the meaning of doing such a thing.
Gu Yu thought He Chengtian wouldn’t be able to understand so he didn’t bother explaining it further. He poured a cup of tea: “Less nonsense, drink tea. I think you, who has only thought about money will never understand the ‘feeling’ for things.
He Chengtian was angry: “What ‘feeling’? I think it’s just being pretentious.”
Gu Yu patiently explained: “Its something you want to do for your own sake even if it seems useless to others. It is a satisfaction of heart and mind and not monetary gains and losses.” Gu Yu paused suddenly then turned to He Chengtian and smirked: “Maybe for you, the value of money itself is probably your ‘feeling’. In the eyes of Old Chiang, money is not what he pursues.”
He Chengtian: “…”
Zhang Siyi wasn’t sure if He Chengtian understood what Gu Yu was saying, but he did. Gu Yu chose this place to eat in direct opposition to the values He Chengtian so rudely expressed earlier at noon. Gu Yu wanted to directly show He Chengtian a different kind of value and lifestyle. Also, Zhang Siyi finally understood the meaning of ‘personal feelings’ that Gu Yu once answered to Fu Xinhui about architecture months ago in KTV.
If someone asked him why he was doing architecture in the future, Zhang Siyi would also say it was because of ‘personal feelings’.
The five of them freely chatting and by the time they were drinking the fifth cup of tea, from downstairs, Old Chiang called for them to come to dinner.
Now feeling hungry, even after drinking probiotic black tea, they couldn’t wait to eat. Gathering around the table, they sat down and were surprised to find the area was hot. Several asked if there was a heating blanket. While serving vegetables, Old Chiang laughed and told them that it was the work of the northeast style Kang heating system. As he explained, Zhang Siyi also realized they weren’t sitting on Japanese-style tatami mats, but the Kang heater. Not expecting it in a place where many facilities in Haicheng didn’t have heat at all, they were able to enjoy this special treat.
As Old Chiang placed the food on the table, he introduced every dish in detail; where the fish came from, about the chickens caught back home, from which mountains harvested what vegetable and, even the pork chops that were directly ordered and shipped from a friend’s farm.
Even though the food was common, steamed squid, sweet and sour pork ribs, spring bamboo shoots, stewed chicken soup…., the plates were carefully and artfully plated. Each dish conveyed Old Chiang’s values and aesthetics in life. He also poured them a glass of wine that Old Chiang personally made. It stands to reason, since Gu Yu brought them there, the taste will not disappoint.
It’s no wonder that birds of a feather flock together. Although the decoration and layout of this house is quite different from Gu Yu’s villa in Yuanshan garden, it gives Zhang Siyi a pleasant cozy feeling similar to that of Gu Yu’s home.
After drinking, Zhang Siyi and He Chengtian couldn’t help themselves from eating multiple bowls of food. The girls also put aside their restraint and ate to their hearts content.