The Qu Family Compound is another extended family residence built near Pingyao by a successful Shanxi merchant clan over a number of generations.  This 300-year old compound is very unusual in having five layers of courtyard, and the entire compound has 8 large courtyards, 19 smaller courtyards, and 240 rooms overall.

      Despite this great size, it is said that what is seen here represents only about one-fifth of the Qu family’s estate.  The Qu family was a very successful example of the Shanxi merchant, and their estate used to occupy most of the eastern half of Qi County.  Overall, they owned over 1000 rooms located in 10 compounds.  The family began as retailers in the early Ming Dynasty, later branching out into salt, linen, tea, tobacco, medicine, and the piaohao exchange house business, reaching the peak of their success in the 1860s – 1880s.

     One enters the compound from a street built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties and which still retains the architectural feel of that period, although many of the shops now occupying these charismatic structures are selling modern goods.  The main compound resembles a fortress from the outside, with 10-meter high walls, a tall gate, and an observation pavilion looking out over the front part of the compound.  As one progresses through the compound one will find that each new door is higher than the previous one and each courtyard is wider than the one before it.  This is due to a saying that exceptional people come forth by walking from the low to the high and from the narrow to the wide.  The compound includes many buildings with ornate carvings and craftsmanship, as well as a major opera stage.

     During the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese occupied the compound, and the family had to temporarily relocate their head office to Chengdu .  A Japanese observation post built above the roof of one of the buildings in the complex still remains.

     A few blocks away from the main compound is the Changyuchuan Teahouse, which also belonged to the Qu family.  When entering, one might note many damaged carvings in front; this is due to the destruction caused during the Cultural Revolution. The family apparently hid 400,000 liang of silver ingots under the floor of the teahouse during the Sino-Japanese War, only to have it uncovered by the Japanese.  Opposite the teahouse is the home of the teahouse manager.      

     The ticket to the Qu Family Compound also includes entrance to a series of six museums in the area, including those dedicated to rulers, scales, mirrors, and vessels for measuring rice.  The most interesting one is an abacus museum, which includes a pagoda built completely from 668 abacuses.

Location:  The Qu Family Compound is located on Dongda Street in the county seat of Qi County.  It is situated north of Pingyao and slightly north of the Zhenguo Temple .