Hu Xueyan was the most prominent businessman in later Qing Dynasty, and his legendary life experience from an unknown apprentice to a No.1 merchant nationwide indeed deserve today’s aimless generations’ attention and learning. As for more details of his personal biography, please move to the themed page of Hu Xueyan Biography. |
The former residence of Hu Xueyan is located on Yuanbao Street, Hefang Street Cultural & Historical Zone, originally built in 1872, the peak time of Hu Xueyan’s business but the declining period of Qing government, it took three years for construction till 1875. This is special mansion architectural group both featuring the highlighted classical architectural style of China and the typical westernized building aesthetics. This colossal private house stretches an area of 7,000 square meters and cost the owner ten thousand grams of silver. The outside decoration and the inside furnishing are both unbeatable at the time. Objectively speaking, it deserves the pride to be the No.1 luxury mansion of businessman in late Qing Dynasty.
The part of panoramic view of inside of Hu Xueyan's former residence
In the mansion, what you have to see is Zhiyuan Garden, Thirteen Towers and two rarely-seen rosewood official sedans. Zhiyuan Garden (literally translated to be glossy ganoderma private garden) is highlighted with its weird rockery, it really a marvelous creation excelling the nature, and in the rockery, there is a largest manmade cave in China. The buildings chained together like Baishi Tower, Suochun Yard, Yixia Yard, Xiqiu Yard, Rongdong Yard, Yanbi Hall, Zaifu Hall, Hele Hall and Qingya Hall are all fantastically impressed. The wall decorations with the woodcarvings, brick-carvings, stone-carvings and colored painting are all considerably quality. In the hall, the original calligraphic masterpieces of Dong Qichang, Tang Bohu, Wen Zhengming are carved on the stones.
Unfortunately, the mansion fate is so close to the experiences of owners. Hu Xueyan’s residence went dilapidated along with the owners’ political and business failures. In 1903, Hu’s descendants had no choice but sell the mansion to Wen Yu(文煜), a high-ranked official at the government, with an unprecedented price , and then as the time went, the mansion subsequently was transferred to Jiang family. After 1949, the Army Control Board first used it. Then a small plant made it its workshop before it became a living compound for many households. The city government began the repair of Hu’s residence in 1999 and opened it to the public on January 20, 2001.
The reconstruction of his former residence strictly adheres to the original look. Every step of the restoration obeys the history and the original settings. How to know its original look and this is a problem firstly. Thanks to a package of the historic blueprints stored in achieve for many years, it saved this old mansion. The mapper was Shen Liyuan(沈理源), a famous architect who studied in Italy in his early life, mapped the whole building and took many related photos in 1920. To guarantee the whole project was in line with the history, Luo Zhewen(罗哲文), Yang Hongxun(杨鸿勋) and Guo Daidan(郭黛妲), three domestically honored ancient architectural experts, were invited as the senior consultants
Hu Xueyan’s mansion situated on Yuanbao Street(元宝街), which is a traditional lane with a name of ancient currency, and he select this place to build his private garden is to get a luck. Hu Xueyan is a businessman with a deep understanding of Chinese traditional Confucianism philosophy. Firstly, he was an absolute low-key man, and in the public, he had a low profile and was never spotlighted unless mentioned. It was recorded that he paid more attention to hiding wealth, due to knowing the significance of “深情不寿，强极则辱”(indulging too much results in non-sustainability, and being too powerful to avoid being insulted). The whole mansion is surrounded by the tall white walls. The eye-catching couplet in the mansion may release his philosophy to be a man and a business man –
传家有道惟存厚 – The doctrine handed down from generation to generation in a family is only magnanimity
处世无奇但率真 – The principle of interaction in society is as usual as a forthright and honest man.
By the way, the nearby Huqingyutang China National Traditional Medicine Museum is also established by Hu Xueyan. For traveling here, please note that this tourist site is charged.
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