Yin Yu Tang: The Architecture and Daily Life of a Chinese House

Overview

In the late Qing dynasty, around the year 1800, a prosperous Chinese merchant named Huang built a house for his family in a remote village southwest of Shanghai. He named the house Yin Yu Tang which means Hall of Abundant Shelter—implying his desire for the building to shelter many of his descendants. For seven generations, members of the Huang family ate, slept, laughed, cried, married and gave birth in the house.

By the mid-1990s, the surviving members of the Huang family had ...

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Yin Yu Tang: The Architecture and Daily Life of a Chinese House

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Overview

In the late Qing dynasty, around the year 1800, a prosperous Chinese merchant named Huang built a house for his family in a remote village southwest of Shanghai. He named the house Yin Yu Tang which means Hall of Abundant Shelter—implying his desire for the building to shelter many of his descendants. For seven generations, members of the Huang family ate, slept, laughed, cried, married and gave birth in the house.

By the mid-1990s, the surviving members of the Huang family had moved away from Yin Yu Tang to take jobs in the cities. In 2003 the house found a new home as a permanent exhibit in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. This book, with its room-by-room, generation-by-generation documentation of life in the house, serves as a unique and invaluable introduction to traditional Chinese family and village life.

Nancy Berliner, one of the country's foremost experts on Chinese furniture and arts, takes the reader on a tour of this unique homestead providing detail on Chinese architecture, construction methods, decoration, furniture and family heirlooms. She weaves a story of domestic life in Chinese culture by explaining the traditions of the family who lived here—especially their love and respect for family and ancestors. She also documents the remarkable restoration and reconstruction of Yin Yu Tang, truly a treasure trove of Chinese history.

With hundreds of photographs, scores of primary documents, and thousands of fascinating details, Yin Yu Tang: The Architecture and Daily Life of a Chinese House offers a vivid portrait of everyday life in traditional China.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The complex tale of Yin Yu Tang's salvation, careful dismantling, painstaking reconstruction and authentic refurnishing at the New England institution is alluded to in a brief epilogue. But it is the profoundly moving saga of the Huang family, generations of whom lived and died in Yin Yu Tang, that raises this above a routine preservation success story. Their touching and uplifting stories, told in the first person through letters, diaries and interviews, confirm how the psychic relationship between house and home is by far the most elemental function of architecture."—The New York Times

"If only walls could talk? Well, Yin Yu Tang's did, and what a story they have to tell."—Asian Review of Books

"This book is recommended...for the Chinese history and culture sections of both public and academic libraries."—Library Journal

The New York Times
… it is the profoundly moving saga of the Huang family, generations of whom lived and died in Yin Yu Tang, that raises this above a routine preservation success story. The many woes that have racked China and its resilient people over centuries cannot but arouse our empathy for the valiant Huangs, whose ancestral residence became a palimpsest of those wider tribulations. Their touching and uplifting stories, told in the first person through letters, diaries and interviews, confirm how the psychic relationship between house and home is by far the most elemental function of architecture. — Martin Filler
Library Journal
The 200-year-old Huang family home called Yin Yu Tang (referring to a hall of shelter and abundance) was originally located in China, in Huang Cun village. It is now preserved with other historic buildings and open to the public at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, where it was relocated in 2003. The museum's Chinese art curator, Berliner worked with the 34th and 35th generations of Huang family members to arrange the transfer. Here they share their remembrances, along with genealogical tracing that includes stories of earlier generations. Furniture, artifacts, letters, and other objects from the home are illustrated on nearly every page of the book. Berliner puts everything into context in the first chapter, explaining that the mountainous locale was the reason many men from the village worked as merchants in distant cities. The second chapter focuses on the binding aspect of tradition that drew them back to build large homes for their families, while the third and final chapter discusses the home's architectural components. Because Yin Yu Tang is discussed within a much broader framework, this book is recommended not just for architecture collections but also for the Chinese history and culture sections of both public and academic libraries.-Anne Marie Lane, Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804834872
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/15/2003
  • Edition description: Hardcover with Jacket
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Berliner is curator of Chinese art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and has curated exhibits of Chinese arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Yale University Art Gallery, among others. She has lectured at Harvard University, Dartmouth College, the Asia Society of Houston, and the ChinaInstitute. She has written for the New York Times, Asian Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Asian Art, and American Craft magazines, and is the author of Beyond the Screen: Chinese Furniture of the 16th and 17th Century, and Chinese Folk Art.

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Table of Contents

1. The history, culture and geography of the Huizhou region—portrait of a prosperous merchant culture
2. The architecture of the Chinese house—feng shui, construction methods, craftspeople, etc.
3. The Huang family—seven generations of Chinese family life at Yin Yu Tang
4. Ornament and objects—the cultural messages of decorations, furniture, family heirlooms, etc.
5. Yin Yu Tang in America—the restoration and reconstruction at the Peabody Essex Museum

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