At Shanxi Province's Wang Family Compound (Wang Jia Da Yuan), two dragons look over the compound from above. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.COM/William Wang]
For a glimpse of Shanxi Province's past glory, you'd be hard pressed to find a better example than the Wang Family Compound. The massive residence includes over a thousand homes, all walled within its fortress. Built with an incredible eye to detail, the entire compound screams wealth.
The Wang family originally generated its income from farming, before getting into business and government. A sizable chunk of its fortune was spent on the creation, including the delicately assembled windows and lattices, the sculptural details of every door.
From the compound entrance, visitors wind their way through a series of courtyard residences, each two stories tall. The rooms are filled with period furniture, some of it original. Each residence seems to have a symbolic art sculpture at its front door, and many are wonderful creations.
A stone bridge crosses a moat to the west courtyards. From there, visitors can continue up through the compound, towards its peak. From the top of the compound visitors can appreciate the immensity of the structure. 250,000 square meters of tightly packed courtyards, residences, and passageways, all covered in slate gray roof tiles.
This UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site can transport you to another time. As there is little signage and information available, visitors' imaginations must fill in the blanks, the dramas that must have enfolded within the confines of such a space. Hundreds of family members, multiple wives and concubines, children vying to stake out their space: and everyone packed into a tight, if opulent space... Ang Lee's movie Raise the Red Lantern (incidentally shot nearby) offers some insight into the familial difficulties that surely arose.
In addition, some rooms have been converted into art galleries showing local paintings, and you may even be able to watch an artist create traditional woodblock prints.
Wang Family Compound (Wang Jia Da Yuan)
Fee: 55 rmb
Address: Jingsheng Town, Lingshi County, Shanxi Province. From Pingyao, cars are available for hire.
A stone relief sculpture at Wang Family Compound shows family members engaged in their day to day life. The sculpture is displayed at the entrance of a courtyard home. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.COM/William Wang]1 2 3 4 5 6 7