Qiao's Family Compound (乔家大院 - Qiáojiādàyuàn)

Rem Sapozhnikov / April 2014
Tourists are urged to visit the Qiao's Family Compound, a sample of rich Chinese family life in the not so distant past. In many rooms of the Compound are exhibited the expositions telling the story of the family, about the Chinese culture, traditions, wedding and funeral ceremonies and many more other things.

From the bus station of Pingyao to the Compound I drove for an hour on a regular bus. The ticket cost 13 yuan.
Tourist center at the entrance to the Qiao Compound. The ticket cost 52 yuan (307 roubles, or 8.3 USD).
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The tourist centre plan.
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Map of Qiao Compound.
The total area of the architectural complex is about 9000 sq. m. In all buildings there are 313 rooms whose total area is 4000 sq. m. The remaining space is occupied by 6 large and 19 small courtyards.
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Qiao's Family Compound is the best among the preserved private estates in North China.
The whole territory is surrounded by a ten-meter high wall.
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The Qiao's Family Compound was built in the 18th century. During its existence, it was reconstructed and expanded in proportion to the growth of the family wealth, and the walls grew up depending upon the crime rate in China.
The ancestor of the family was an orphan Qiao Guifa (乔贵发 - Qiáo Guìfā). At first he worked as a servant. Having saved some money, he began to trade fodder, tofu, tea, etc. beyond the Great Wall in what is now the province of Inner Mongolia. Having earned some money, he returned home in 1755 and built a house.
The greatest financial success was achieved by one of his grandsons – Qiao Zhiyong (乔致庸 - Qiáo Zhìyōng), 1818-1907.
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Qiao Zhiyong became the owner of a network of banks, pawnshops and tea houses in large territory of China.
The Qiao's Family Compound became as we see it now, exactly after the changes made as intended by Zhiyong.
The museum was opened here on November 1, 1986.
The Compound received worldwide fame in 1991, after the director Zhang Yimou in its walls made the film "Raise the Red Lantern". At the 48th Venice Film Festival, this film won the Silver Lion for the Best Director. By the way, Zhang Yimou was born in the province of Shaanxi, and not Shanxi, as is sometimes mistakenly indicated. Totally over 40 films and TV serials were filmed in the Compound.
Exhibits are so many that every visitor will find something interesting for himself. Metrologists will like the ancient Chinese measuring instruments. It is interesting, which methods were used to get the specified accuracy.
Inventory of one of the series about the Qiaos. Signboards of shops and pubs in Baotou.
Furniture from different times is exhibited in rooms.
This room tells about the life of a girl of 15 years of age. She was not allowed to leave the premises, all the time she spent waiting for an engagement. This period is called Daizi (待字 - dàizì). The future husband is chosen by parents and matchmaker. The couples's coexistence, among other things, is checked by their dates of birth. During this time, the girl must strictly adhere to the Confucian rules of "Three Obediences and Four Virtues".
Lifang (礼房 - lǐfáng) – is the room of officiation. Management of wedding affairs is performed from this room. Usually a highly respected local citizen is invited to perform the wedding. He manages absolutely everything, including meets guests, receives money and gifts, which are kept in this room. Who and what gave is recorded in a special register.
The day, when a girl gets married, is called Chuge (出阁 - chūgé). The day before the wedding, the bride has to eat in the evening a certain amount of dumplings, equal to the number of her full years, plus 2 pieces (岁岁饺子).
In this room, they tell about a traditional Chinese wedding. Including the Six ceremonies, that were necessary to observe.
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On the territory of the Compound there are some beautifully designed toilets for tourists.
I failed to figure out what's happened to the family of Qiao. All sources modestly mention that by the forties of the 20th century, the family had lost its influence and, therefore, one must understand, its capital.
Exit back to the tourist center leads through long rows of souvenirs.
The bus, which brought me here, has not appeared at the bus stop at the appointed time. Fortunately, a lot of taxi drivers on minivans are "grazing" there. One of them quickly assembled a group of tourists, who wish to return to Pingyao. I was among them. The fare was 20 yuan (118 roubles, or 3.2 USD).

On the way to Pingyao I passed under the new high-speed railway flyover.

Continuation :
Street scenes

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