The sprawling Shen Residence (Shěn Tīng, 沈厅)—some 2,000 sq m (21,528 sq ft) of fine aristocratic Qing Dynasty living—is the biggest dwelling of its kind in Zhouzhuang. More than 100 rooms surround seven courtyards and the complex also boasts five archways.
Local Shen Benren (Shěn Běnrén, 沈本仁) built the residence in 1742 during the Qing Dynasty. Born into old money, he was considered something of a good-for-nothing until his father's death when he turned like Shakespeare's Prince Hal into something a family could be proud of. After putting his efforts to expanding the family business, he expanded the family home into to its current size.
While Benren left behind his grand home, he remains overshadowed by his ancestor, entrepreneur Shen Wanshen.
The grand residence can be divided into three sections—the water gate and wharf, the Tea Hall and Main Hall, used for receiving guests and holding important ceremonies like weddings and funerals, and the living quarters.
Zhouzhuang on the China Travel Blog
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