Sunday, September 07, 2008

PEM: Yin Yu Tang

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem. Since they renovated the museum a few years ago - sinking millions and millions into it - it's revolutionized the city of Salem. Lots of trendy shops, upscale restaurants, expensive condos have come. Even cruise ships occasionally stop here all helping the city's economy.

Anyway, I've been there before (even wrote about it) but I hadn't visited the Yin Yu Tang house which is an entire Chinese house reassembled at the museum. The house served the Huang family for over eight generations and was lived in till at least the 1980s, if not later. The museum did a fabulous job of reconstructing not only the old elements but even the newer - both of which really speak to the culture. For instance, in the 1960s the Chinese government mandated all homes be fitted with a radio in the home's main reception area that could not be turned down or off. The government used it to broadcast messages to the Chinese people. The speaker was bright pink and in some respects clashed against most of the 19th century architecture and furniture but it said a lot about the transitions the family went through.

3 comments:

Will said...

Not only is the house great all by itself, the joint effort by a crew of American carpenters and another group of Chinese house builders made for one of the most fascinating documentaries I've ever seen. The Museum has been reborn from what I call the old "moth ball" type into a really living showcase for Salem's and the country's history and art.

Countess Bedelia said...

That house is a national treasure...both for us and for China also. Everyone should visit it.

afod said...

Interesting story behind this history. I could not fathom being required to have a radio in my home tuned to George W with no possobility of turning off or down. ACK!