Xiguan Dawu, the grand mansions of high officials and rich businessmen living in Xiguan, (today's Liwan District), has been an unseparable part of the history of Guangzhou ever since it came into being.
In the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Xiguan was the area in Liwan District ranging from Xicun in the north and the Pearl River in the south, to Renmin Road in the east and Xiaobei River in the west, which also generally meant the area beyond the west city gate in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasties. Xiguan was divided into Upper Xiguan and Lower Xiguan.
The number of ancient grand mansions of Xiguan has dropped from over 800 in its prime in the period between the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China to 100 at present, of which only about 10 mansions are worth preservation such as the one on No.15, Shisanfuzheng Street.
The typical Xiguan Dawu is built with three courtyards, and between each courtyard is a narrow lane. The first courtyard is for the door keepers, the sedan chair bearers, and other servants. There are usually three doors in the house. The first door, about half the size of the grand door, is made with wood and adored with hollowed-out ornaments. The second door is in fact a wooden fence, which as its name indicated protects the house from any people from coming in without the permission of the master. The third is the door in the real sense. This is a grand door, which was only closed at night.
If you go deeper into the house you will find the living rooms, the sitting room and the kitchen. In the Dawu, the sitting room is usually the center of the mansion, which boosts the highest ceiling, the most spacious room, and the grandest decorations. The sitting room on one side of the second floor, there is a special room to pray to the ancestors.
The walls were decorated with polished bricks and hollowed-out Manchow windows, whose colored glass reflects on the shinning wood furniture and bring about a special mystic atmosphere. The high walls were a break against the sudden downpours provide enough light and allow the free flow of air in the house.
The Dawu provided enough room for the house members. Take the Peng's Dawu at Dongshenfang for example, the mansion has 430 square meters space for its 13 family members and servants.