No.144, Beiyuanmen, Xi’an (near the Drum Tower)
One of the best-preserved traditional residential courtyards in Xi’an.
Gao’s Grand Courtyard in Xi’an will be a wonderful choice for you to appreciate ancient residences and explore local culture of paper-cutting and shadow puppetry. As one of the best-preserved traditional residential courtyards in Xi’an, Gao’s Grand Courtyard is a showcase of the elaborate architectural art in the Ming and Qing Dynasty.
Gao’s Grand Courtyard is the former Residence of Gao Yuesong, who is an official of the royal court in the Ming Dynasty. The whole family compound is brick and wood structure, showing the profound family culture of Gao’s. Even though there are almost 86 rooms here, but only 56 rooms are opened for tourists.
Chinese Name: 高家大院 （Gāojiā Dàyuàn）
Built: Ming Dynasty (during 14 years of the reign of Emperor Chongzhen)
Location: No.144, Beiyuanmen, Xi’an (near the Drum Tower)
Area: 4.2 acres (the total living area covers 2517 square meters)
Best Time to Visit: all year round
Opening Hours: 8:30 am-10:30 pm
Time Needed: 1-2 hours
Gao Yuesong, the owner of Gao Family Courtyard, took part in the imperial examination and appointed “Bangyan” by the emperor, which means the second-place winner. With 7 generations working for the royal court, Gao’s family was an official aristocratic family in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The construction of this family compound also shows people the family glory and spirit of Gao’s.
In 1999, Gao’s Grand Courtyard was listed as the key Historical Streets Protection of China and Norway. Invested by Norway, the family compound was renovated according to the original appearance, which won the UNESCO Asia Pacific regional cultural heritage award in 2002. In 2003, Gao’s Grand Courtyard was renovated completely with the help of Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Except for Ming and Qing architectures, you can also appreciate ancient furniture, residential couplets, delicate brick carvings, traditional Chinese paintings and calligraphy in Gao’s Grand Courtyard. Additionally, it’s available to join some activities like learning Chinese painting and paper-cutting, or you can enjoy the excellent show of shadow puppetry.
As watching shadow puppetry is one of the top things to do in Xi’an, you’d better not miss it when visiting Gao’s Grand Courtyard. The show is usually about stories and legends in the folk, with the distinctive local music in Shanxi Province, presents vivid figures on the screen by using silhouette of different characters made of animal skin or carboard.
The artists will stay behind a white curtain, normally they manipulate characters for each story while singing lines of different stories in Shanxi Dialect, which makes shadow puppet show in the Gao’s Grand Courtyard distinctive from other places.
Besides, the music is also special, with popular local tune accompanied by some traditional percussion and string instruments. Even though it’s hard for you to understand what they’re singing, you can feel the story by each movements of the characters on the white curtain, which will be really impressive.
Metro: Metro Line 2, get off at Bell Tower Station
Bus: Bus No. 4, 7, 15, 32, 43, 45, 201, get off at Bell Tower Station
Tips: There are more buses can get to Gao’s Grand Courtyard, just choose the suitable one according to your location.