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An edifice of charity

By Sun Ruisheng | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-21 07:38

An edifice of charity

The Li Family Courtyard in Wanrong county, 38 kilometers from Yuncheng city, Shanxi province, is less-known to the public but is among the area's best-preserved manors. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A philanthropic family's old mansion shows what wealth and poverty meant in bygone eras. Sun Ruisheng reports in Wanrong, Shanxi.

Shanxi province was celebrated as a hub of tycoons from the 19th century to early 20th century, and many of their mansions remain icons-but few people know about the Li Family Courtyard in Yuncheng city's Wanrong county.

That said, the family itself is a local legend, largely because of its philanthropy.

The dwellings of other elite of this time and place overshadow the Li manor's reputation.

The Chang Family Manor in Yuci is six times larger. Construction of the more visually spectacular Wang Family Courtyard in Lingshi spanned three centuries.

The Qiao Family Courtyard in Qixian gained national fame after it was featured on a popular TV series.

But the Li Family Courtyard is one of the best preserved-thanks to the efforts of Yanjing's villagers.

The compound that spreads over 100,000 square meters was constructed between the 1860s and 1930s.

Like many other merchants' courtyards in Shanxi, the Li family's residence was partially demolished from the 1950s through the end of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) to provide building materials for public infrastructure and facilities. Nine of its 20 courtyards were destroyed during this time.

The local government turned the remaining 11 interconnected quads into a tourist attraction in 2008.

The Lis left their residence in 1938, when Japanese army invaded Wanrong. They've since scattered among 15 countries. But neighbors protected their abode, largely in gratitude for the family's contributions to the community.

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