Cao Family Compound
As the name shows, Cao Family Compound was the former residence of Cao’s Family, one of those wealthy businessmen in ancient times. It is located in the northern part of Beiguang Village, 5 kilometers (about 3.1 miles) southwest of Taigu County in Jinzhong city, and 45 kilometers (28 miles) northeast of Pingyao Ancient City, 60 kilometers (about 37.3 miles) from Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province.
History of Cao Family and Cao Family Compound
Historically, the businessmen of Jin (short for Shanxi Province) have played a crucial role in Chinese commerce. They have both contributed greatly to its development and written extensively about their achievements. Cao’s Family is pre-eminent among these businessmen. The Cao's Family business, at the height of power and splendor in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), owned more than 640 firms and 37,000 employees. It had an estimated worth of 12 million taels of silver, the tael being a unit of currency used in traditional China. The business had branches and connection in Japan, Moscow, Paris and London. A visit to Cao Family Compound will give you insight into their extraordinary achievements.
The Cao's Family first began trading in bean curd and other commodities at the end of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Gradually, the business accumulated capital, which allowed the family to erect an estate comprised of several great houses, which became known as the Cao Family Compound. The Compound is also known as Sanduo Hall, Sanduo meaning three mores: more good fortune, more longevity and more children. With a history stretching back more than 400 years, the Cao Family Compound covers an area of 10,638 square meters (about 12,723 square yards). It is remarkable for its noble, simple and unpretentious construction. It is built around three large courtyards, which connect three 3-tiered, 17-meter (about 18.6 yards) high buildings that house a total of 277 rooms. These structures are in the architectural style of Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China (1912-1949).
Cultural Relics inside Cao Family Compound
If Sanduo Hall can be called a rare flower of Chinese residential architecture, the treasures displayed in Sanduo Hall are its beautiful petals. Hundreds of artworks, photographs and pieces of craft accompany paintings, calligraphies, lighting and background music, arranged to form a beautiful image of the life of the Cao's Family in full bloom. You can also read the history of the Cao's Family, the lows and highs, boom and eventual bust.
Their amazing story will leave you able to view the grand courtyard and see it almost as it was, hundreds of years ago, its location in an almost traffic-free tableland didn't prevent it from being a thriving multinational headquarters for the Caos. The furniture exhibition of pieces from the Ming and Qing Dynasties comprises more than 400 articles, including an enormous folding screen and an exquisite shell mirror.
The screen is set with 92 pieces of precious natural marble. 50 characters are inscribed on the back of the screen, which form messages wishing longevity and bestowing advice to later generations.
The mirror is made of natural shells carved with designs considered to bring good fortune. When you look at it from different angles, the mirror appears to shine in different colors. Interestingly, it is said that when you see the color red you will be prosperous in your career; if you see the color pink, it indicates that fate will join you and your lover together; while the color of yellow promises you much wealth throughout your lifetime.
Nearly 2,000 pieces of stone ware are displayed in the porcelain room, including bottles, pots, plates, bowls and trays, most of which date back to the Ming and Qing Dynasty.
The most amazing piece in Cao Family Compound is a national treasure from the Qing Dynasty - a golden clock shaped like a locomotive. The clock is an article of tribute from France; it weighs about 42.25 kilograms (about 93.14 pounds), has a weatherglass and, after being wound up, can travel along a track. When the combined Allied Forces invaded Beijing, Empress Dowager Cixi escaped to Shanxi. To cover her expenses, she borrowed several thousands taels of silver from the Cao's Family. After her return to Beijing, she gave the family the clock as a token of her gratitude. In the porcelain room you will also find a famous copy of an invaluable painting - "Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival". It is thought that all these treasures bless the courtyard with a double portion of good fortune.
Since being open to public visitors, The Cao Family Compound has proved very popular with tourists, due to its unique appearance and charming style.
How to get to Cao Family Compound
Take a bullet train from Taiyuan South Railway Station to Taigu West, which takes about 30mins and costs CNY14.5 for a second class seat. After arrival, take bus T05 to Wenhua Guangchang and transfer to bus T06 to Sanduotang (Cao Family Compound).
|Entrance Fee||Apr. - Oct.: CNY72; |
Nov. - Mar.: CNY60.
|Opening Hours||8:00 - 18:30|