The Qing – China’s Last Dynasty – Part 3/3

December 12, 2010

The last travelogue segment takes us on a tour of the Qiao family’s grand courtyard and residence located in Jinzhong, a prefecture in the center of Shanxi Province. Today, this prefecture is home to more than 2.5 million people.

The Qiao family complex shows the blending of the mansion’s practical functions, artistic design and ancient architectural techniques to create complex art in a simple plan.

The details show the glamour of China’s ancient residential house culture in northern China. Each engraving in the mansion is detailed artwork telling a story of life’s philosophy.

The narrator takes us on a tour of a Qiao family courtyard made famous by Zhang Yimou when he directed Raise the Red Lantern. Zhang Yimou won two awards for this 1991 film at the Venice Film Festival.

Raise the Red Lantern also turned the Qiao family’s mansion into a popular tourist attraction. The mansion covers 8,000 square meters (almost 10,000 square yards) of land with 313 rooms.

For security reasons, the roofs are connected.

To build family mansions of this size and scope takes generations of successful businessmen working together as a collective family unit.

However, if a family loses its moral compass, the fortune and land were often lost over time.

These mansions also represent the feudal culture of ancient China.

The last of the three mansions covered in this travelogue was the Chang Mansion, which demonstrates the poetry of a Chinese garden.

Large families such as the Changs built elaborate mansions and gardens. However, the mansions and gardens were built according to rules and guidelines.

Shaanxi province is considered a treasure trove of ancient Chinese architecture.

There are 106 family compounds similar to the four in this travelogue and some date to before the Sung Dynasty (960 to 1276 AD) representing about 70% of China’s surviving ancient wood built architecture.

Return to China’s Last Dynasty – Part 2 or start with Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of “The Concubine Saga”, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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