Nestled amid the beauty of Guangzhou, is the Chen Clan Family Mansion (also known as the “Chen Clan Ancestral Hall”). Built in the late 19th century by 72 Chen clans, this complex served as an academic temple. Today, the mansion houses a large collection of folk art, including the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. With its extraordinary architecture, rich history, and cultural significance, the Chen Clan Family Mansion is an attraction that cannot be missed.
- Because of its academic past, the Chen Clan Family Mansion is often sometimes referred to as the “Chen Clan Academy”.
- Construction on the complex was started during the Qing dynasty in 1890, and was completed by 1894.
- The Chen Clan Family Mansion is comprised of 19 buildings with nine halls and six courtyards.
- It covers a total area of 13,200 square meters.
- In 1988, the Chen Clan Family Mansion was added to the list of “Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State".
History Of Chen Clan Family Mansion
During the late Qing dynasty, two Cantonese-American members of the Chen Clan, Chen Ruinan and Zhaonan, returned to China. They proposed raising funds from Chen clansmen in order to construct a temple for ancestor worship, and an academy that would house Chen family members whilst they studied for the all-important imperial examination.
Within a brief period of time, 72 families of Chen lineage had contributed money to fund the project. Construction on the mansion commenced in 1890 and was completed by 1894. The complex was built in the traditional Qing dynasty architectural style, with ornate woodcarvings throughout the interior, and finely polished wooden rafters.
By 1905, the aforementioned imperial examination system was abolished, and the complex became a practical school for Chen Clan members. In 1957, the municipal government of Guangzhou deemed it a “special preserve”, taking the mansion under their care. Two years later in 1959, the Guangzhou government introduced a folk arts and crafts gallery. The Chen Clan Family Mansion amassed a large collection of important folk art pieces, including pottery, wood carvings, and engravings.
In 1988, the Chen Clan Family Mansion was listed as a “Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State”. It typified the traditional Qing dynasty architectural style. Today, the mansion is the home of the Guangdong Folk Art Museum.
Culture Of Chen Clan Family Mansion
Covering a sprawling 13,200 square meters (142,083 square feet), the Chen Clan Family Mansion contains 19 buildings with nine halls and six courtyards. The three main buildings include the Main Entrance, the Gathering Hall, and the Rear Hall – all separated by courtyards.
The Main Entrance: This section of the complex measures 27.5 meters wide, and nearly 15 meters long with 17 columns all containing intricately carved human figures, animals, and flowers. A tablet is affixed to the gate of the Main Entrance with words translating into “Chen Clan Academy”.
The Gathering Hall: This portion of the Chen Clan Family Mansion is 27.84 meters wide, and 16.7 meters deep. Within the hall’s interior, there are six carved stone columns and twelve ornately engraved folding screens. There are also 21 main beams that stretch the length of the hall. A pottery sculpture is situated on said beams, which was completely restored in 1981. The Gathering Hall served as a place for ancestor by Chen clansmen, in addition to a gathering place.
The Rear Hall: This section was likewise once used as a place for ancestor worship. Memorial tablets of Chen Clan members were positioned on wooden shelves.
Amongst the large collection of cultural relics located within the Chen Clan Family Mansion, the most famous piece is the “11 pottery ridge crest”. Installed on the nine halls of the complex, this exceptional piece of finely crafted pottery is a main highlight of the attraction. The largest and most intricately decorated section is located on the rooftop of the Gathering Hall. It measures 27 meters long, 2.9 meters high, and contains 224 ornate figures.
- The Chen Clan Family Mansion is open from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
- It is recommended to allot about an hour or so, to fully appreciate all that the complex has to offer.
- On Wednesdays of the third week in each month (except June), visitors gain free admission to Chen Clan Family Mansion.
- In addition, on the second Saturday in June (National Cultural Heritage Day), visitors enter for free.
- The Chen Clan Family Mansion is easily accessible via Guangzhou public transportation.