Meet Yin Yu Tang, An Ancient Home Reborn In Massachusetts (Book Review)

Yin Yu Yang courtyard and common room
The courtyard peering into the common room of Yin Yu Tang.

Nancy Berliner’s book, Yin Yu Tang: The Architecture and Daily Life of a Chinese House, tells the story of a Chinese family house that was brought to the United States. The house was discovered by Berliner on a trek through China, at the time it just happened to go up for sale.

Yin Yu Tang translates as “Hall of Shelter and Abundance.” This refers to the Huang family’s wish that this be a prosperous home for generations of descendants. But the last descendants ultimately decided to let the house go.

A study of an ancient home that offers keys to timeless living.

The house was relocated from its village outside Shanghai and brought over to the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts. The book explores the ins and outs of the house, but even more, it gives a glimpse into the lives of the eight generations of a Chinese family that lived in the house for over 200 years.

Yin Yu Tang - courtyard

The courtyard at Yin Yu Tang. (Image: Tuttle Publishing)

Berliner sensitively describes the variety of materials and construction techniques employed in building and rebuilding Yin Yu Tang. She provides enough engaging detail to interest architects through to novice home repairmen, and anyone interested in how people live in foreign lands.

Yin Yu Tang is an exploration into the Chinese way of life over the past 200 years. Berliner provides a detailed and insightful account of the culture, the people, and the place which birthed Yin Yu Tang. You come to understand something familiar about the human heart and how we manage to live together.

Yin Yu Tang book cover. (Image: Tuttle Publishing)

Yin Yu Tang book cover. (Image: Tuttle Publishing)

With research by James Smith.


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