Situated in Qiaojiabao Village, Qi County of Shanxi province, Qiao’s Family Compound is a traditional merchant dwelling in north of China. With a distance of 54 km away Taiyuan and 40 km from Pingyao ancient city, you can take bus from Pingyao bus station or Taiyuan Jiannan bus station. Also you can order the private service for more convenience.
As the saying, “There sits Forbidden City in Beijing; there stands Terra-cotta Warriors in Xi’an; there lies folk residences in Qi County.” Among the ancient residences in China, Qi County in Shanxi province, the top and most residences located, is the ideal place for you to appreciate those historical buildings and the Shanxi merchants’ dwelling life.
There are many compounds scattered in Qi County, including Qiao’s Family Compound, Wang’s Family Compound, Cao’s Family Compound, Qu’s Family Compound, etc. Among them, Qiao’s Family Compound is most famous for being the chief location of film “ Raise the Red Lantern”, directed by Zhang Yimou. Also as the best preserved compound remains, it’s known for its large scales and the exquisite craftsmanship of wood, brick and stone carvings.
By the way, if you want to visit Wang’s Family Compound together, there is a brief comparison between them.
|Qiao’s Family Compound||Wang’s Family Compound|
|Construction time||Qing dynasty||Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasty|
|Building scale||9000 square meters||45000 square meters|
|Architecture style||Chinese and western combined building||Ming & Qing ancient building|
|Layout||The Chinese character”囍”||The Chinese character “王”|
|Class of construction||Merchant dwelling||Officer mansion|
Located in the central of street and surrounded by enclosed brick walls, this imposing building complex looks like the Chinese character”囍” when staring straight down at the ground. Facing the street with its three sides, this compound is isolated from outsides by over 1 meter thick parapet walls.
Covering about 8725 square meters, this courtyard estate has 6 large courtyards and 20 smaller courtyards, including 313 rooms. There is a stone-paved path leading to a main hall with 80 meters long and divided the 6 courtyards into south and north sides. According to the tradition naming methods, the yards in north are called the Old Yard (老院), the Northwest Yard (西北院), the Study Yard (书房院) from east to west; and the yards in south are called the Southeast Yard (东南院), the Southwest Yard (西南院), and the New Yard (新院).
Each courtyard consists of a principle room with tiled roofed for the host and side rooms with brick roofed for guests or servants with quite different construction styles to presents the hierarchy. On the roof of each yard, there is a special corridor to walk through to guard the whole compound. At the end of west side, is the ancestral temple, facing to the front gate.
Passing through each yard, there are various carvings, paintings, murals and the precious tablets dotted on doors, roofs, windows and even the walls, which makes the compound more delicate.
Originally built in 1756 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor in the Qing dynasty, Qiao’s Family Compound, the original Chinese name was Zai Zhong Tang (在中堂) was renovated later during the late years of Emperor Guangxu. They bought streets to build entrance and ancestral temple in order to reinforce the security, later more lands was bought to meet their living needs. By continuously enlarging the scale, Qiao’s Family Compound was completed in the early years of Republic of China.
During the extension, the Qiao’s Family history changed as well. The prosperity of the Qiao Family originated from business trade of fodder, bean sprout and bean curd and came to the golden age in the Qiao Zhiyong time. Being the 3rd host of Qiao’s Family Compound, Qiao Zhiyong was raised by his brother. As one representative of famous Jin Merchants in that historical period, Qiao Zhiyong is the epitome of Jin Merchants, who refer to the businessmen of Shanxi province in Ming and Qing dynasty. Following the principles of being industrious, modest and generous, he established the Qiao’s brilliant future by presenting large sum of money to government to go through Taiping rebellion and second Opium War and enjoy a good relationship with the government and higher fame.
With the recession of Qing dynasty, Jin Merchants gradually fade out, so as the compounds. As the finest remaining examples of imposing private residences in northern China. It has been converted into a museum in 1985, called Qixian Folk Museum and opened to public in 1986. With 6 themes, it displayed the history of the Qiao, the treasure of the Qiao, the custom of business, the custom of ritual, the folk crafts and the custom of agriculture. Also more than 5,000 precious relics are exhibited here, including the Qiao’s four most precious crafts: Nine-dragon Screen (九龙屏风), Nine-dragon chandelier (九龙灯)、Wanrenqiu (万人球) and Xiniuwangyue Mirror (犀牛望月镜), which make the place more attractive.
For the fan of ancient buildings of China, there are other famous compounds for you, such as the Wang’s Family Compound. With different layout and inner pattern, it presents you the largest Ming & Qing folk residence. Or you can go back to Pingyao Ancient City and discover the ancient buildings and prosperity of Ming & Qing dynasty.
Following the brief English description on all of the rooms is far from enough to understand the background history of Qiao’s Family and the traditional architecture custom. It’s a highly need to go with a guide.
As a typical ancient folk courtyard, Qiao’s Family Compound is allowed to take photos. The red lanterns hanging on the eaves, the faded brick walls, the miscellaneous wooden carving, etc, all marked the history of this compound, and worth to record under your lens.
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