Shanxi Qiao's Compound

Located sixty kilometers (37.3 miles) south of Taiyuan, the provincial capital, and some twenty kilometers (12.4 miles) north of Pingyao, this Compound was built in 1756 during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The buildings continue to be well maintained despite the fact that the Qiao family had ceased to have any influence since the 1940's.

The family enjoyed a prestigious status during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong (1735-96), one of its patriarchs having been a famous trader, whose travels had taken him far off into foreign lands. The family included banking among its activities and this meant their commercial influence spread beyond Shanxi Province, their private banks being a nation-wide enterprise. The compound's inner courtyards and passageways have been designed to form the shape of the Chinese character for the words 'double happiness' (shuang xi). The architecture has virtually an encyclopaedic range, displaying a vast array of contrasting roof styles which vary from gentle slopes to high peaks which swoop down in elegant curves.

This mansion covers some 4,220 square yards and consists of six main courtyards and twenty minor ones. There are 313 rooms which are set on a north-south axis. An 80 meter (87 yards) long passageway runs from east to west, dividing the complex in halves. At the western end stands the ancestral temple of the Qiao family.

The compound is contained within a 10 meter (33 feet) high wall that has parapets and battlements on the top. At each of the four corners there is a watch tower that completes the defences that protect the sealed and private world of the mansion. Within the wall a road has been constructed around three of its sides to give ready access to the various buildings which between them have an array of some 140 chimneys, each with a unique design.
The main entrance is through an elaborate gateway, complete with a tower, which opens to the east. Above the door the family motto is inscribed and which reads 'Descendants be righteous, brothers show mutual care and so may the family prosper.' Beyond the gate there a screen wall on which is carved the figure of Longevity. It was this mansion that was used as the setting for the famous film 'Raise the Red Lanterns'.