So a bright and sunny Saturday we were to go across to another province through the modes of local taxis, trains, and a mini van and spend around 14 hours out of our hotel. Get out of our comfort zone (yes, the same cubby hole hotel room with no TV, no Internet, limited elevator services, etc… that ‘comfort zone’) and get the local experience roughing it out amongst the locals.
|Travel... The train journey|
The first stop was after a 2 hour train journey to the city of Taiyun in the neighbouring province and another hour by road to the Qiao family courtyard.
|The Bus journey|
|Some colorful images from outside Qiao's Courtyard|
|Begin with the Govt. of Tourism justifying why the hell we were there|
The Qiao family was one of the richest in this province and in China for over 5 generations and had interests in transport, food, hospitality amongst other things. Their residential HQ is what is now a tourist spot (and the entry fee to this is what sustains generation 7,8,9 currently). The house is obscenely huge in size and while the family was exceedingly rich, commercial architect services were apparently not commissioned. Seems that a young Qiao baby from Gen 2 was given 200 pieces of Lego blocks and whatever he created was replicated 50 times over to make the house.
|The rat-in-the-maze feeling!|
- It’s easy to get lost in the maze of similar looking rooms in similar looking wings of the house. While the tourism board now has ‘You are here’ boards at some places, I’m sure that something similar must have existed 200 years back.
|Every new doorway promised to lead out...|
|Sue was the first to want out|
- The Qiao families idea of a morning walk was probably a visit to the washroom. Getting out of the house itself probably required weeks of preparation.
- We were told that the Qiao men had multiple wives and that this was customary in those times. I got a sense that finding your way back to the same room every night was a challenge and it helped to have necessary female support systems in multiple rooms. That’s probably what gave rationale to multiple wives conceptually.
- Our tour guide also explained that the Qiao family business philosophy has intrigued people over the years but the fact that they respected their employees immensely and gained their unconditional loyalty in return helped a lot. Apparently eSat is not a modern concept.
- We also learnt of the historic concept of Credit checks in China. The higher the door sill to your rooms/house, the richer you were and the more respect you got. Federal tax collectors annually used to go around measuring all door sills and feeding this into complex algorithm to evaluate tax liabilities. A tax collector once fell over the 12 inch sill of Mr. Qiao’s office room once and broke his nose. That suddenly led to the realization that these folks were really really really just a little too rich. All properties were attached and businesses nationalized right after this.
|Credit score of A++. Congratulations you may buy that Manhattan condo Mr. Qiao!|
The next was the Pinyao ancient city. A world heritage site about an hour further towards the west.
I have a theory that if you spend long enough in a really really old city/area, after some time the age starts rubbing off on me. In around 2 hours I left the city nearly 60 years older – or so it seemed!
|Snapshots from the Ancient City|
|More Ancient Pcitures|