Siheyuan is a traditional Chinese residence, most commonly
seen in Beijing. A typical siheyuan consists of several
courtyards divided by doorways, with each courtyard being
surrounded by rooms that are directly open to the court
and linked by verandas.
Verandas are the linkages between the rooms
It is a self-contained small world: within the humble
enclosure walls, there is a multi-layered realm which is
orderly and tranquil with access to natural elements.
Siheyuans usually sit in the north and face the south.
Such a structural arrangement is not only for maximising
the exposure to the sun and obstructing the winds in the
winter, but also to follow the principle of Feng
Shui. So naturally, the hutongs (alleyway
of Beijing style) that offer access to siheyuans are normally
running in the east-west direction.
The sizes of siheyuans vary. While having two or three
courtyards is the most common, they can also contain one
courtyard only, or get two or more siheyuans standing side
by side with a garden at the rear.
Siheyuan is not just confined to residential uses. Most
of Buddhist and Daoist temples in Beijing are also built
in siheyuan style - a case in the point is the famous Taoist
Cloud. But the most magnificent siheyuan is, undoubtedly,
the Forbidden City, which comprises of nearly a hundred
courtyards, from as majestic as the one with emperor's
audience halls to as tiny as those in which low-rank eunuchs
used to live.
The siheyuan residence shown in the photos originally
belonged to famous eunuch Li Lianying, the most trusted
assistant to the most notorious Empress Dowager Cixi of
the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Situated in northwest Beijing's Haidian District, fairly
close to the Summer Palace, it was for a long period inhabited
by Li's brother and his descendants. Currently the district
health bureau uses it as its office.
(source of part of photos: 焦点房地产网）