Qiao Family Compound


This 18th-century complex of courtyards covering 24,000 sq m is a fine example of a traditional private residence in China. Once home to a celebrated merchant, it’s an austere yet elegant maze of doorways and courtyards that lead onto a seemingly infinite number of rooms (over 300). The complex is famous as the set of director Zhang Yimou’s tragedy Raise the Red Lantern (大红灯笼高高挂; 1991) starring Gongli. If you have seen and enjoyed the film, a visit is a must.

Sure enough, the place is festooned with red lanterns; but many fascinating exhibits of Ming and Qing era furniture and objects are also displayed, as well as Shanxi opera costumes and props. English signage helps convey northern Chinese traditions and rites to foreign visitors.

The site is massively popular with domestic tour groups so get here as early as you can. While the entrance is glossed up, and souvenir and food stalls besiege the courtyard, the residence is still big enough to flee the crowds: step through one of the many doorways and they magically vanish.

To get here, catch any bus going to Qíxiàn (祁县; ¥25, 1½ hours) from Taiyuan’s Jiànnán bus station. Tell the driver where you’re headed and they’ll drop you at the main gate. You can also visit from Pingyao (¥15, 45 minutes, every 30 minutes to 6.40pm).

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