Xiwan Residence is the most attractive spot in Qikou Town, a six hour bus ride from Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province. It was built during the Ming dynasty in fortress style and was home to the wealthy Chen clan.
There are more than 30 family courtyards in the village which are connected by five north-south alleys, each with a stone arch at its entrance. Each courtyard is connected by a secret path, making it is possible to make a tour of the village from any courtyard. This design was not only for communication, but also for defense purposes at times of siege.
For more than two centuries, when transportation in the Yellow River alley was still undeveloped, Qikou served as a vital trading point marking the eastern terminus for river-bound freight between northwest and north China.
During its golden ages, more than 380 shops did good business in Qikou. Qikou's prosperity, however, ended with the War of Resistance against the Japanese that started in 1938, when the Japanese army invaded Qikou and destroyed the local economy. Most merchants fled, and they never returned. Although Qikou Town has now faded from recent memory, it has nevertheless retained its original outlook.
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