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Ma's Grand Family Compound: A 'Kingdom' in Solitude

Updated: 2015-07-10
( chinadaily.com.cn)

Ma’s Grand Family Compound, one of the 3749 ancient residential buildings in the Ancient City of Pingyao, North China’s Shanxi province, is the former residence of Ma Zhongxuan, one of Pingyao’s four most prosperous merchants during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Ma's Grand Family Compound: A 'Kingdom' in Solitude
Ma's Family Compound in Pingyao, Shanxi province [Photo/jjsx.china.com.cn]

Initially built in Tongzhi’s reign, the Ma’s compound had gone through continuous construction during the reigns of Tongzhi and Guangxu, and developed into a grand architectural complex. It contains three large courtyards, six small courtyards, and 197 rooms in an area of 9 mu (0.6 hectares).

The overall layout of the whole complex was arranged intentionally to resemble the shape of the Chinese character "马" ("马" stands for horse, and is pronounced ‘Ma’ in Mandarin). It reminds Ma’s heirs of their roots and is also as a good-willed metaphor for the Ma family to gain immediate success.

The exterior of the buildings is tall and majestic, whilst remaining sumptuous and delicate inside. The grand compound is a demonstration of the traditional Chinese big family - just like a cloistered kingdom.

Ma’s Grand Family Compound is not only a traditional Chinese residence, but also embodies the architecture, traditions, folk customs, and the stories of ancient merchants. It is representative of Qing Dynasty décor and Shanxi merchants’ legends.

The traditional residence played a prominent role in the formation of ancient city’s cultural environment, according to a research report on the Ancient City of Pingyao by Zheng Xiao, a Chinese renowned expert on ancient cities protection, and Ren Zhiyuan, the chief engineer of Ministry of Construction Urban Planning Bureau.

However, the ancient family compound’s reality is not so optimistic. Since it was opened to public on Aug 10, 2014, the compound has had sparse visitors, and the majority of the public remain unfamiliar with Ma’s Grand Family Compound. Ma’s popularity shows a sharp contrast to other thriving family compounds that are swarmed with visitors, like Wang’s at Lingshi county and Qiao’s and Qu’s at Qixian county.

 

Dining

Pingyao Wantuo

Wantuo, a type of noodle from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is one of Pingyao's local snacks with a long history.

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