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Qiao Family Grand Courtyard
Source: 2011-07-31 18:34:12

The Qiao Family Courtyard lies in the beautiful and richly endowed Jinzhong basin of Shanxi. It is greatly admired as a very special artistic treasure by both common people and architects; it is also one of the ten best tourist spots in Shanxi Province.
The first generation of Qiao's family, Qiao Guifa, started business from a shoestring. He braved Xikou and beyond to arrive at Baotou of North China's Inner Mongolia, where he finally became a tycoon and monopolized Baotou's commerce.
Qiao family's business reached the top in the family's second-generation, when their bank house opened in Beijing, Tianjin, Northeast China, and the Yangtze valley. It is estimated that the Qiao family's property was worth an equivalent of nearly 10 billion yuan in modern time.
The Qiao Family Courtyard was built in during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) in the Qing Dynasty, and occupied 8,724.8 square meters of land, consisting of 6 large yards and 20 small yards with 313 houses in total. It was repaired and rebuilt many times during the reigns of emperors Tongzhi and Guangxu in the Qing Dynasty and the beginning years of the Republic of China (1911-1949). It was an old Chinese residential courtyard that thrived for over two centuries. When you look down at the overall yard above ground, it looks just like"喜喜"(double happiness in Chinese).
Entering into the gate of the courtyard, first, you will see an 80-meter-long straight stone pavement that divides 6 courtyards into a northern and southern row. There are slope protections between the pavements and nearby walls.
The Qiao family's ancestral temple is at the end of the western side, which directly faces the gate. There are 4 main buildings and 6 other structures, such as a gate pavilion and the Geng and Tiao pavilions. The sidewalks on the roof of every yard are connected to allow for patrol.
Viewed from outside, the residency is serious and grand, with long yards; viewed from inside, it is splendid and orderly, reflecting the residential style of big families in feudal society in North China.
The courtyard's three sides face the street, while the courtyard itself is completely surrounded by a 10-meter-high sealed water-milled brick wall. Yards and houses are linked with other yards and houses while the sidewalks above row upon row of roofs - such as the Xuanshan, Xieshan, Yingshan, Juanpeng, and Horizon roofs -- link up the battlements.
Yards contain smaller yards as well as gardens. The doors, windows, eaves, stone stairs, quadrangular railings, and the Chuanxin, Pianxin, and Jiaodao yard are all beautifully shaped. 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.
The Qiao Family Grand Courtyard has been admired as a bright pearl of residential buildings in North China.
In the first ten years of the Republic of China, Qiao Zhiyong's eldest grandson Qiao Yingxia rebuilt the grand courtyard.
Qiao Yingxia believed in Catholicism, and admired Western civilization. Therefore the style of the new courtyard added many Western elements. Some windows had glass installed and were decorate in a Western style. Paintings under the eaves added some new things like trains and railroads. The living room in the northwest courtyard included a bathroom and a Western-style washroom.
Besides, the Qiao Family Grand Courtyard also collected many pieces of furniture made in the Ming and Qing dynasties as well as some rare treasures, like, the "nine-dragon lantern" and the "ten-thousand-person ball."
In addition, four tablets still hanging in the yard are quite noticeable; they were separately bestowed from Li Hongzhang (a Chinese general who ended several major rebellions, and a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire), the Empress Dowager Cixi (a powerful and charismatic figure who was the de facto ruler of the Qing Dynasty, ruling over China for most of the period from 1861 to her death in 1908), Fu Shan, and villages in Ji County.
In 1990, this ancient mansion gained its fame home and abroad due to the movie Raise the Red Lantern by the director Zhang Yimou.
After the movie finished, the drama production team left behind several hundred red lanterns. Since then, these lanterns have been the most important decoration both in the Qiao Family Grand Courtyard and other jin shang courtyards.
In 1986, the Qi County government rebuilt the courtyard into the Qi County Folk Museum that features art, science, and other things of interest. It contains 42 exhibition rooms displaying a wide range of material covering subject areas such as years, time, season, food, clothing, shelter and transportation, wedding and funeral ceremonies, and agriculture trade activities. In total, approximately 2,000 pieces of exhibits reflect the folktale custom in the Shanxi Jinzhong area.

Editor:Li lin
Shanxi People's Government Foreign Affairs Office (2011) All rights reserved
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