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Home Travel in Shanxi Four Courtyards of Merchants in Shanxi
Four Courtyards of Merchants in Shanxi
Travel in Shanxi


Shanxi (shān xī 山西) courtyards refer to number of characteristics northern courtyards, it mainly distributes over in Shanxi, such as Taigu (tài gǔ 太谷), Pingyao (píng yáo 平遥), Qixian (qí xiàn 祁县), Jiexiu (jiè xiū 介休), Yuci (yú cì 榆次) and Yangquan (yáng quán 阳泉) in Jinzhong (jìn zhōng 晋中); Baode (bǎo dé 保德), Datong (dà tóng 大同), Hunyuan (hún yuán 浑源) in Jinbei (jìn běi 晋北); Qinshui (qìn shuǐ 沁水), Yangcheng (yáng chéng 阳城) in Jindongnan (jìn dōng nán 晋东南); and Linfen (lín fén 临汾), Xiangfen (xiāng fén 襄汾) in Jinnan (jìn nán 晋南).


Courtyards These courtyards are the output of polity, economy and culture in the late feudal society and also an external manifestation of how Shanxi merchants accumulated their wealth since Ming (míng 明) and Qing (qīng 清) dynasties. Shanxi courtyards are the first-hand information to show merchants and scholar-bureaucrat`s cultural attitudes and values in that era and provides a good reference to us which can research local customs, business culture and architecture of modern Shanxi province.

Main courtyards

Wang Family Courtyard (wáng jiā dà yuàn 王家大院)

Wang Family CourtyardWangjingsheng (wáng jìng shēng 王静升)′ s hometown was Jiaonan (jiāo nán 胶南) of Shandong (shān dōng 山东) province, then moved to Taiyuan (tài yuán 太原) of Shanxi province. In southern Song (sòng 宋) dynasty, Wangshi (wáng shí 王实) moved from Taiyuan to Lingshixian (líng shí xiàn 灵石县). In 1313, Wangchengzhai (wáng chéng zhāi 王诚斋) moved to Jingshengcun (jìng shēng cūn 静升村). In the early of Qing dynasty, Wangxingwang (wáng xìng wàng 王兴旺) started doing businesses, and ran more and more shops by Wangqianhe (wáng qiān hé 王谦和) and Wangzhengju (wáng zhèng jū 王正居). Gradually, Wang family had becoming a business tycoon at that time. In the middle of Qing dynasty, Wang family was developed from a normal civilian population to a noble.

Wang Family CourtyardThe Wang courtyard includes east and west courtyards and Xiaoyi(xiào yì 孝义) temple, with the total area of 34,650 square meters. East compound is known as Gaojiaya (gāo jiā yá 高家崖) which are an irregular-shaped of house group. From the layout of buildings, each block has zhengyuan (zhèng yuàn 正院), pianyuan (piān yuàn 偏院), taoyuan (tào yuàn 套院), chuanxinyuan (chuān xīn yuàn 穿心院) and kuayuan (kuà yuàn 跨院) etc; from the use of buildings, it has main room, living room, xiulou (xiù lóu 绣楼), hall and kitchen etc. West compound is named “red gate castle”, which are a very regular and closed residential castle group. West compound is only has one gate that is red color and faces to main street. Overlooking the west courtyard, it is a rectangular block, with 105 meters from east to west and 180 meters from north to south. Wang courtyard is not only a residential building; it is also an architecture museum that is one of Shanxi′ s largest well–preserved buildings as the First House of Shanxi.

Location: Jingshengzhen (jìng shēng zhèn 静升镇), 12 kilometers of east of Lingshixian (líng shí xiàn 灵石县), Shanxi province.
Transportation: 1. Take train or plane to Taiyuan, and then change bus to Lingshi. It needs 2 hours on the way.
                      2. Take train to Jiexiu (jiè xiū 介休) or Lingshi, and then change bus to Wang courtyard. The schedule of bus is beginning at 8:00 a.m. and end at 8:00 p.m.
Recommended time to visit: 4 hours or more
Opening hours: 8:00-19:30 (summer)
                      8:00-18:00 (winter)
Ticket: RMB 66
Best time to go: Spring, Summer and Autumn

Qiao Family Courtyard (qiáo jiā dà yuàn 乔家大院)

Qiao Family Courtyard Qiao courtyard is located in Qixian (qí xiàn 祁县). The layout looks like a Chinese word “Xi (xǐ 喜)", with the total area of 8,724 square meters. Qiao compound was constructed in Qianlong (qián lóng 乾隆) Dynasty (AD1756), after that, expansion twice and reconstruction once. There was three compounds in north which named laoyuan (lǎo yuàn 老院), xibeiyuan (xī běi yuàn 西北院) and shufangyuan (shū fáng yuàn 书房院) from east to west; And three compounds in south called dongnanyuan (dōng nán yuàn 东南院), xinanyuan (xī nán yuàn 西南院) and xinyuan (xīn yuàn 新院). Qiao courtyard is a famous buildings in the world, not only because it has those magnificent architectural houses, but more importantly because it dramatic architecture technique. Carved brick, wood and painting can be found everywhere.

Location: Qiaojiabao (qiáo jiā bǎo 乔家堡) village, Qixian
Transportation: Take trains from Taiyuan (tài yuán 太原) to Yuncheng (yùn chéng 运城) or Pingyao (píng yáo 平遥), both pass Qixian.
Recommended time to visit: 4 hours or more
Opening hours: 8:00-18:30
Admission fee: RMB 40
1. Best season to go: Spring, Summer and Autumn
2. Local specialties : 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).
For more information: Qiao Family Courtyard (qiáo jiā dà yuàn 乔家大院)

Cao Family Courtyard (cáo jiā dà yuàn 曹家大院)

Cao Family CourtyardCao courtyard names Sanduotang (sān duō táng 三多堂) Museum now, and it located southwest of Taiguxian (tài gǔ xiàn 太谷县). It is a new development of cultural attraction in Shanxi`s tourism and open in 1995. Many treasures were displayed in Cao courtyard. For example, it has more than 400 pieces of furniture at the “Ming and Qing furniture exhibition”. There is a "Baishou (bǎi shòu 百寿) big screen” which sets 92 pieces of natural marbles and wrote 50 Chinese words - "Shou (shòu 寿)" in back of screen. The shell mirror carved with natural shell pattern and Chinese words “Fu (fú 福) , Lu (lù 禄), Shou (shòu 寿)". It will show a different color in different angles. If you see red, that`s mean you will get a big chance in your business; if pink, someone fancy you; you will earn more money if you can see yellow. Porcelain pavilion displays nearly 2,000 pieces of china. The most amazing treasure is locomotive clock from Qing (qīng 清) dynasty. This one was a tribute from France and made by yellow, white and black gold. It was Cixi (cí xǐ 慈禧)′ s guaranty for borrowing money from Cao family on her running way. In addition, the vivid and priceless painting of Qingmingshanghetu (qīng míng shàng hé tú 清明上河图) was duplicated by Chouying (chóu yīng 仇瑛) in Ming (míng 明) dynasty, with the length of 7.74m and width of 0.45 meters. There are totally 1,643 individual and 208 livestock on it.

Locomotive Clock Qingmingshanghetu

: Beiwangcun (běi wāng cūn 北汪村), southwest of Taiguxian (tài gǔ xiàn 太谷县), Shanxi province
Transportation: Take train or plane to Taiyuan, then change bus to Taiguxian train station and take bus T06 to Cao courtyard.
Recommended time to visit: 4 hours or more
Opening hours: 8:00-18:00
Admission fee: RMB 40
1. Best season to go: Spring, Summer and Autumn
2. Noodles food is much cheaper than other cities in Taiguxian.

Qu Family Courtyard (qú jiā dà yuàn 渠家大院)

Qu Family CourtyardQu courtyard is located in the eastern of Jinshang (jìn shāng 晋商) old street and has 300 years history. Qu family was one of famous merchants since Ming and Qing dynasties. They had dozens of compound and thousand houses, with the covering area of 30,000 square meters. It called "Qubancheng (qú bàn chéng 渠半城)" by local people.
It looks like a castle from outside, with 10 meters high walls and tall arched gate. From inside of castle, the layout is logical, with bluestone courtyard foundation and brick walls. In the Jinshang culture museum, the themes of exhibition divide into seven series which are overview of Jin businesses, famous trade names, Jushangdajia (jù shāng dà jiǎ 巨商大贾), actions of patriotism, business events, Qu family stories and origin of Jin opera. It uses objects, models, pictures and sculptures, matching with lights, sounds and other modern electric techniques to reveal the spirits of Jinshang culture. Until now, the Qu family courtyard is almost fixed; more and more exhibitions will come soon.

Location: In the eastern of Jinshang (jìn shāng 晋商) old street, Qixian (qí xiàn 祁县)
Transportation: Take trains from Taiyuan to Yuncheng or Pingyao, both pass Qixian.
Recommended time to visit: 3 hours or more
Opening hours: 8:00-18:00
Admission fee: RMB12
Best season to go: Spring, Summer and Autumn