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      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home

      Listen now to the PEM Walks episode about this property! Our behind-the-scenes audio storytelling unlocks PEM’s historic houses.

      How to visit

      Included with museum admission. Tickets are required. Same-day timed tickets may be reserved at the Admissions desk.

      During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), a prosperous merchant named Huang built a stately 16-bedroom house in China’s southeastern Huizhou region, calling his home Yin Yu Tang, meaning “Hall of Plentiful Shelter.” The house was home to the Huang family for more than 200 years until the last descendants moved from the village in 1982.

      In the 1990s, as part of a mutually beneficial cultural exchange, the home and its contents were carefully dismantled and transported to Massachusetts for eventual installation on PEM’s campus. Over the course of seven years, a team of museum curators and educators working in concert with preservation architects and traditional Chinese and American craftspeople re-erected the home. In 2003, Yin Yu Tang opened to visitors, telling the complex story of its past and recent history and transforming it from a multigenerational family residence to a historic house in a museum setting at PEM.

      The first floor bedrooms have intricately carved lattice windows that look out onto two fish ponds in the central courtyard. The home’s details tell as much about the aspirations, identity and creative expression of the Huang family as they do about the architectural heritage of the region.

      The family’s well-documented genealogy and the collection of furnishings – passed down through eight generations – offer the opportunity to understand historical changes in China as they affected individuals in their daily lives and cultures on a global scale.

      The name “Yin Yu Tang” has several meanings; one refers to the owner’s wish that this house would shelter their descendants far into the future. That wish was fulfilled – Yin Yu Tang was home to eight generations of the Huang family. At any one time, as many as 30 people, from three different generations, lived here — nearly all women and children. The young men worked as merchants in cities at a distance from the village to support their families. The journey to these cities was often dangerous, and the men lived there for extended periods of time, sometimes for as long as six years. In their absence, the women, children and elders were the primary residents of the house. While caring for the younger and older generations, the women maintained the sixteen-bedroom home, farmed vegetables and raised chickens and pigs.

      According to the principles of the Chinese practice of feng shui, Yin Yu Tang was oriented in the village of Huang Cun to ensure a harmonious relationship with the landscape. Typically, Chinese homes face South, letting in sunlight and more yang, or masculine energy. Yin Yu Tang, however, was positioned facing North, toward the direction that the village stream flowed (considered to symbolize prosperity) with the rolling hills behind. These geographical features made the home’s unusual position more auspicious.

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      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

      A bedroom in Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home, interior. Photo by Dennis Helmar.

      A bedroom in Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Dennis Helmar.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home, interior. Photo by Dennis Helmar.

      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home, interior. Photo by Dennis Helmar.

      Plan your visit

      Yin Yu Tang is available for timed, self-guided audio tours. The frequency and size of tours are limited to protect the historic structure and optimize visitor experience.

      Exercise care
      Please help us preserve the house for future generations by refraining from touching objects and the structure itself. Non-flash photography and videography is permitted for personal use. The use of tripods or selfie sticks is not allowed. Please walk with care and watch out for uneven stonework and raised thresholds. The house offers limited wheelchair accessibility. Call 978-542-1644 for more information.

      Store your belongings, but keep your coat
      Yin Yu Tang is partially outdoors and may be cool in fall and winter. Strollers, bags, backpacks and umbrellas are not permitted in the house. Please leave them at the coatroom or the cubbies by the Information desk. Our staff at the entrance of the house can look after strollers.

      Pick up your audio guide in advance
      Please pick up your complimentary audio guide, available in English and Mandarin, at the information desk 10 minutes before your visit. Please note: Plan to bring your own pair of headphones. Before your visit, press #50 to listen to an introduction to the house. Once inside, look for stone blocks with two-digit numbers. Press the number plus the play > button to hear the audio.

      Be prompt
      Please be at the doors to Yin Yu Tang five minutes before your scheduled visit with your audio guide in hand. A staff member will alert you shortly before the end of your time slot. If you arrive late, your visit will be shortened and entry is not guaranteed. Your ticket is valid only for the time indicated.


      Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home 20th Anniversary Festival

      Virtual House Tour

      Click to embark on a 360° tour of Yin Yu Tang. Just click on the rings to move throughout the space and use your mouse or keyboard to zoom in/out and to look all around.

      An exterior view of Yin Yu Tang's roof

      PEM Walks Audio Guide

      Planning to be in Salem? Take an audio walking tour with PEM hosts Dinah Cardin and Steven Mallory while you explore Yin Yu Tang.

      Piece by Piece book spread

      Piece by Piece

      Read about PEM's first children's book, Piece by Piece, which tells the story of a young girl named Emmy and her visit to Yin Yu Tang, the Chinese house at the museum.

      Yin Yu Tang in the PEM Shop

      Explore books, stationary, home decor and more.

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