The ornate Qiao Family’s Compound displays the special characteristics of North China residences of the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911). It was first built in 1756 in the Qing Dynasty and was renovated several times and enlarged once before the large and magnificent compound finally came into being.
Among folk residences, both those in Shanxi Province and South Anhui Province enjoy high reputation in China. As an old saying goes, “the most famous residences are located in Shanxi Province in North China and South Anhui Province in south China”. Among Shanxi’s residences, the most magnificent ones lie along the Fenhe River (a stream tributary to the Yellow River), with the best homes built in Qi County and Pingyao Ancient Town. One of China’s most famous architects, Zheng Xiaoxie, once commented that “there sits Forbidden City in Beijing; there stands Terra-cotta Warriors in Xi’an; there lies folk residences in Qi County.” Qiao Family’s Compound, as the most renowned one in Qi County, gained its fame not only for its large scale but also for its exquisite craftsmanship reflecting architectural styles of the Song (960-1279), Yuan (1206-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1636-1911).
The compound was first built in the Qing Dynasty by Qiao Zhiyong, who grew up an orphan, made a living as a servant and later become a successful businessman with great wealth. Qiao Family’s Compound is world renowned, not only because it contains a magnificent complex of buildings, but more importantly because it reflects exquisite workmanship and mastery of architecture. More than 30 films were shot here, among which the most famous one is 'Raise the Red Lanterns', directed by Zhang Yimou, and Starred by Gong Li.
Viewed from above, the fully-enclosed Qiao Family’s Compound looks very much like the double Chinese character of 'xi' (囍), which means happiness and luck in Chinese culture. It occupies a total area of 10,642 square meters (2.6 acres) with a construction area of 4,175 square meters (1 acre). It comprises 6 major courtyards, 20 smaller courtyards and 313 rooms. With its three sides facing the street, the compound is isolated from the surrounding folk residences, having ten-meter high and 1-meter thick parapet walls (a kind of wall as high as the house, used to keep the yard safe and private). The exquisite design and meticulous craftsmanship make these walls unrivaled. Another important characteristic of the compound is the fact that every house is connected by corridors, which makes it easier for guards to protect the yard.
From the main gate which faces east, a long paved path leads to the main hall, at the western end of which is the ancestral hall of the family. This path separates the compound into two parts: the South Yard and the North Yard. Each yard consists of a principle room for the host and side rooms for guests or servants. There are some differences in style between the two kinds of buildings; for example, the principle room has a tiled roof while the side rooms have brick roofs. This keeps the compound from looking monotonous, and also presents the hierarchy within the family.
In 1986, Qiao Family's Compound was opened to the public and served as the Qixian Folk Museum. More than 5,000 pieces of precious relics are displayed, fully reflecting the local agricultural customs, life ceremonies, business customs, arts and crafts. Themed categories include history of the Qiao Family, treasures of the Qiao Family and cinema archives
The Qiao Family's Compound is situated in Qiaojiabao Village (乔家堡), Qi County (祁县), 64 km (40 miles) southwest of Taiyuan City.