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Tourists Flock into Antique Courtyards as Holiday Approaches


Tourists are pouring into the former residences of earlier business tycoons in north China's Shanxi Province though the longest spring holiday is still a full week away. The former residence of Qiao Zhiyong, a business tycoon from Qixian county, is receiving at least 5,000 visitors daily after a TV series called "the Qiao Family's Mansion" drew nationwide viewers at the start of this year. Management of the courtyard, which has been renovated into a folk culture museum and an important tourist destination, predict the daily visitor flow will hit 20,000 during the week-long May Day holiday starting on May 1. The Qiao family's mansion, covering 8,700 square meters in Qixian county, belonged to Qiao Zhiyong (1818-1907), one of the earliest and best-known bankers in China. The mansion found its fame in the early 1990s, after noted Chinese director Zhang Yimou shot an award-winning film "Raise the Red Lantern" there in 1990. At least 10 million people have visited the courtyard in the past two decades, said its management. Today, visitors to the courtyard would rather wait a long while to have a photo taken in front of its traditional Chinese-style houses festooned with red lanterns. Shanxi Province is dubbed a cradle of China's banking industry and home to a number of imposing, well-built homes of local businessmen who are known in history for being shrewd, far-sighted and insightful. A 60-km drive from the Qiao's mansion is the Wang's courtyard in Lingshi county, known as the best residence in China. Large crowds of tourists from Beijing, Tianjin and Shaanxi, Liaoning and Hebei Provinces visit the place every day. Ancestors of the Wang's family built their fortune by making bean curd and selling cattle in the 1700s and early 1800s. But the family business almost collapsed toward the end of the 19th century, when the younger generations became addicted with opium and refused to work as hard as their ancestors did. A local tourism official said Shanxi Province aims to draw more tourists from home and abroad this year. During the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday in January, the province received 2.19 million tourist arrivals, up 12.5 percent year-on-year. Tourism income during the holiday season alone totaled 600 million yuan (US$75 million), up 6.6 percent over the same period of last year, according to figures released by the provincial tourism bureau.

(Source:Xinhua News , 2006-04-24)