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Qiao Jia Dayuan (Qiao's Family Compound)

Qiao Jia Dayuan
Located in the middle of Qiaojiabao village (qiáo jiā bǎo cūn 乔家堡村) in Shanxi province (shān xīshěng 山西省), Qiao Jia Dayuan (qiáo jiā dà yuàn 乔家大院), also known as Zaizhongtang (zài zhōng táng 在中堂), was the mansion of the famous merchant family Qiao in the late Qing dynasty (qīng cháo 清朝). The compound was constructed in 1755 by Qiao guifa (qiáo guì fā 乔贵发), the first member of the family to strike it rich selling tea and bean curd beyond the Great Walll. Returning to his hometown, he built his dream home, to which successive gernrations added until it reached its present size. It covers 8724 square meters with 313 rooms. Qiao Jia Dayuan represents the typical style of northen folk houses with great historical value.

 History
Old Time of Qiao Jia DayuanNot all of the businessmen have special names, but businessman of Shanxi is an exception. Jinshang (jìn shāng 晋商) refers to the businessmen of Shanxi province in Ming (míng cháo 明朝)and Qing dynasty (qīng cháo 清朝),most of them ran exchange shops and salt business. Qiao zhiyong (qiáo zhì yīng 乔致庸) was the most outstanding and famous one, his success and mercy are remembered and resounded till now. He took reputation as the most important quality for running a business, honesty next, and benefit last. It was he who established the Qiao’s brilliant future and made the prototype of the compound.
 

RoomIn the late years of Emperor Guangxu (guāng xù 光绪), the public security was a big problem. The Qiao bought the streets near them to keep the family safer. The little alley were blocked and built up to a side yard of the northwest and southwest yards. The east street was later became the main entrance, and the west street was built into an ancestral temple. The Qiao’s family was getting larger in the early years of Republic of China, so they bought more lands to meet the needs of living. Qiao yingxia (qiáo yìng xiá 乔映瑕) the head of family built the new yard besides the southwest yard, which had a similar structure as the southeast yard. Till then, the Qiao’s Family Compound was completed.

Overlook of Qiao Jia DayuanTo take an overlook, Qiao Jia Dayuan looks like a Chinese character xi (xǐ 囍) which means the best luck and great happiness. The courtyard is divided into 6 big yards and contains 20 little yards all in all. The big yards are castle-liked and surrounded by streets on three sides. To be independent from the houses around, the Qiao had built towering walls which was over 10 meters high and kept the whole building group solemn and safe. There is a saying, “Qiao Jia Dayuan is to folk houses what the Forbidden City is to royal houses”. The reputation of the courtyard is well reflected in this sentence.

FuzhonglanghuanQiao Jia Dayuan sits in the west facing the east, its main entrance is an arc with a high attic, which hangs a sign written “Fu Zhong Lang Huan (fú zhòng láng huán 福种琅环)”given by Cixi (cí xǐ 慈禧) the queen mother. The 80-metre long stone pave behind the gate divides the 6 big yards into 2 sides—the north one and the south one. According to the tradition naming methods, the yards in north are called the Old Yard (lǎo yuàn 老院), the Northwest Yard (xī běi yuàn 西北院), the Study Yard (shū fáng yuàn 书房院) from east to west; and the yards in south are called the Southeast Yard (dōng nán yuàn 东南院), the Southwest Yard (xī nán yuàn 西南院), and the New Yard (xīn yuàn 新院). The ancestral temple of the Qiao stands at the end of west.
Name StoneOverlookStone LionSteps

The trees of miracle (shén shù 神树)
Gardon of Qiao Jia DayuanIt is said that there was a Wudao temple (wǔ dào cí 五道祠) outside the oldest courtyard, which contained two weird-looking trees called the trees of miracle. After bought this temple, the Qiao decided to remove it without the trees. Mr. Qiao had a dream one night, the God of Jinjia (jīn jiǎ shén 金甲神) told him that his family would never make a fortune if he didn’t move the tree to a certain place. The Qiao believed in the dream and move the trees, they did relive and grow well! So the family built a new temple besides them to sacrifice to god.

RoofThe Qiao’s Compound is not only famous for the fascinating architecture, but also for the details all over the yards. You can see brick carvings everywhere in the yards: backbone carving, wall carving, and railing carving, all of which are based on figures, allusions, flowers and plants, birds, beast, chess, and painting and calligraphy. The carving designs are so exquisite and their workmanship, so fine, fully showing the special style of residential building in the Qing Dynasty.These techniques are extinct nowadays, we could only see them and touch them and imagine how they were made.

Qiao’s Compound is now a museum of custom. The exhibition has 6 themes, including 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. Moreover, more than a thousand precious art crafts are exhibited here, including the Qiao’s four most precious crafts: Nine-dragon Screen (jiǔ lóng píng fēng 九龙屏风), Nine-dragon chandelier (jiǔ lóng dēng 九龙灯)、Wanrenqiu (wàn rén qiú 万人球) and Xiniuwangyuejing (xī niú wàng yuè jìng 犀牛望月镜), which make the place more attractive.

Location: Qiaojiabao village, county Qi (qí xiàn 祁县)
Transportation: Trains departing from Taiyuan (tài yuán 太原) to Yuncheng (yùn chéng 运城) or Pingyao (píng yáo 平遥) both pass county Qi.
Admission fee: CNY 40
Opening hours: 8:00-18:30
Tel: 86-0354-5321045
Best season to go: Spring, summer and autumn
Attractions nearby: Pingyao Ancient City (píng yáo gǔ chéng 平遥古城) Yanshou Temple (yán shòu sì 延寿寺), Chinese Zhouyi Palace (zhōng huá zhōu yì góng 中华周易宫), Qu’s Compound (qú jiā dà yuàn 渠家大院).
Tips
·Give yourself at least 2 hours. 
·Don't forget to taste local specialties such as Pingyaowantuozi (píng yáo wǎn tuó zi 平遥碗坨子) and Changshengyuanhuangjiushandian (cháng shēng yuán huáng jiǔ shàn diǎn 长生源黄酒膳点).
·Parking fee: CNY 10.

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 July 2010 20:33
 

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