Luxury Hotel Jing’s Residence: Giving New Life To An Old House

Qing Dynasty Courtyard Hotel Transports Travelers To The Qing Dynasty, Combining Modern Comforts With Imperial Past

Entering Jing's Residence is like stepping back in time to China's Qing Dynasty

Entering Jing's Residence is like stepping back in time to China's Qing Dynasty

China’s traditional courtyard houses are proving a goldmine for some intrepid entrepreneurs, who are investing millions to transform these imperial relics into boutique hotels. Last year, the website AsiaOne profiled one of these aspiring hoteliers, Singaporean businessman Winston Lim, who has already purchased around 30 traditional courtyard homes in and around Shanghai with the hopes of restoring and converting these structures into five star boutique hotels:

[Lim] is planning to incorporate the houses into his upcoming luxury boutique hotel in Zhu Jia Jiao town near Shanghai. To be completed next year, the 180-million yuan hotel will have 60 suites, a spa and restaurants. There will also be a museum for Ming dynasty antique furniture and it will house pieces from his personal collection.

Mr Lim, who will run [his new] hotel with a Singaporean partner, said the project would give these houses ‘a new purpose’ and that it would be easier to maintain them this way. He added: ‘It is also a chance to show off the Chinese heritage.’

In China’s interior Shanxi province, known more for its coal industry than fine boutique hotels, another courtyard hotel — Jing’s Residence (锦宅) — fits with Lim’s vision. This hotel, a Qing Dynasty-era mansion once owned by a wealthy silk dealer, was until recently a dilapidated shadow of its former opulence, but was purchased and restored (at the cost of over a million dollars) by owner Yang Jing. Although few travelers — Chinese or non-Chinese — would think of otherwise gritty (but historic) Pingyao as a luxurious tourist destination, Jing’s Residence, with its mix of traditional Chinese design and modern comforts, could attract a fair share of adventurous — and well-heeled — guests.

Recently, Sina (新浪) profiled Jing’s Residence, noting that each of the hotel’s 19 rooms and 2 luxury suites are unique, designed to respect the building’s original structure and maintain the traditional spirit of an ancient courtyard house. From the article (translation by Jing Daily team):

Jing’s Residence is made up of four connected buildings, separately called “bamboo,” “dates,” “water” and “stone,” all of which are made up of two floors and have the characteristic look preferred by ancient residents. The compound was originally owned by a wealthy silk merchant in the Qing Dynasty, with the name “Jing” referring to silk. Fittingly enough, silk is ubiquitous throughout the hotel.The walkway through the traditional brick-paved courtyard connects the different sections of the compound, and at night lights sparkle, bamboo leaves rustle, and water gurgles gently beneath a small bridge, weaving around jujube trees and beautiful stone accents.

Rooms are outfitted with modern comforts while maintaining a distinctive imperial feel

Rooms are outfitted with modern comforts but maintain a distinctive imperial feel

The main entrance of the hotel faces Chaodong Avenue. When you enter, hotel staff takes you straight to your room, checking you in right there on the spot. It’s all very intimate. The main lobby of the hotel opens up to a wooden spiral staircase, which leads upstairs to a small bar and library. This is my favorite area of the hotel, with cozy couches and a laid-back atmosphere. You can sprawl out on the plush sofas, even take a seat on the floor or lie out on the unique wooden benches and relax — watch a DVD, check your email, sip wine…as the owner, Yang Jing likes to say, “When you come here, you can just let yourself go.”

None of the hotel’s 19 rooms and 2 luxury suites have the same design. [The hotel’s designer, Antonio Ochoa’s] idea is: Respect the original structure of the buildings while at the same time maintaining the traditional spirit of the courtyard and integrating new things in a restrained manner — reflecting modern lifestyles. Natural materials are selected to create an atmosphere both elegant and relaxed: beautiful ancient wood carvings, hand-carved wooden window frames, bamboo floors and ceilings and folk-style furniture. Even small appliances have local cultural characteristics, melding past and present, and the kang-style beds are actually really comfortable. Even the sink looks like something right out of the ancient past.

Antonio Ochoa rides his bicycle around the compound, as Yang Jing takes her cute little one-year-old daughter on a stroll in the yard. I went next door to a Nepalese clothing store for a little shopping spree, then had lunch and a drink at the neighboring restaurant, Sakura.

After a few rounds, someone said they’d heard foot massages were good and cheap, so “how ’bout we go get one!” On the down side, the place’s toilet was a bit high, the hot water was a bit slow, and the surrounding area was full of counterfeit stores…but it doesn’t really matter because there in that gritty city was a refuge in the form of Jing’s Residence, a place where you can listen to old men tell stories, get up in the morning and do tai chi, eat delicious and authentic noodles, get a fantastic foot massage — is there anything better than that?

More information about Jing’s Residence, including booking and travel info, is available on their website: http://www.jingsresidence.com/

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