The Shi Family was one of the richest and most powerful families in Tianjin, China in the 1800s. They settled in Yangliuqing, a suburb in western Tianjin and built an extravagant house! Now, that house, named the Shi Family Courtyard, is open to the public for visiting.
Though it’s an hour away, I still recommend visiting the Shi Family Courtyard! It’s a nice place to see how extravagantly rich people lived in early China, and get away from the bustle of the city.
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How to Visit the Shi Family Courtyard
The Courtyard is one stop that you can add to your Tianjin, China itinerary. It’s in the suburbs of Yangliuqing, so it’s about an hour away from the city center. However, you can take several different buses (I took 824) directly to the Shi Family Courtyard stop for just 2 RMB each way. The 824 takes you directly to and from the Tianjin Train Station, so that would be good if you’re looking to do something right before you move on.
The Courtyard is also right next to the Yangliuqing New Year’s Painting Studio. This type of painting is specific to Yangliuqing and very well-known across the country, so you could combine the Courtyard with a visit to the studio.
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Introduction to the Shi Family Courtyard
The Courtyard belonged specifically to Shi Yuanshi. His father, Shi Wancheng, was one of the eight grand masters of Tianjin.
It was finished in 1875, encompassing over 6,000 square meters, 200 folk houses, a theater, and 275 rooms.
It expanded to 10,000 square meters later, making it one of the first mansions in north China.
Part of the Courtyard is now the Yangliuqing Museum, which showcases information about traditional life in the area. There are small exhibits with antique artifacts, some of which explain a variety of customs. There are not always explanations in English, but you should be able to get the gist of the message with the displays.
In the rest of the mansion are relics from the time that the Shi family lived there. It was split into several sections that are still preserved; you can see the accountants’ office and bed.
There are also specified areas for worship (the family was Buddhist), watching live shows at the theater, and hosting various guests.
The outside of the mansion contains a pretty large garden. It reminds me slightly of the garden in the Summer Palace – just, of course, not nearly as large or extravagant.
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The Corridors of the Shi Family Courtyard
Since there are few rooms you can walk freely in – or even go very far into – you will be in the corridors a lot. That’s fine, since many of the walkways are great! They all have very classic Chinese architectural elements to them.
Part of it is the stone lions that guard the gates and scare away demons, and the other part is the symbols for good luck! Chinese people, who in general are quite superstitious, have filled their houses with all kinds of wishes for luck. The most obvious are the “福” (fu) words, which signify good wishes!
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