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In the summer of 1997, Yin Yu Tang, a well-preserved house dating from the mid-Qing period (1644-1911) and located in the Huizhou region of China, was carefully dismantled. It is to be re-erected at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and opened to the public in June 2003 and these guidelines have been prepared to guide the re-erection, conservation, and restoration process of this building, specifically. In developing these guidelines, a number of charters developed for the treatment of cultural property were consulted. These include:

International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (The Venice Charter): 1964

The Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments: 1931

Society for the Protection of Ancient Building Repair Principle (William Morris Manifesto): 1877

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties: 1978, rev. 1995

Appleton Charter for the Protection and Enhancement of the Built Environment (ICOMOS Canada): 1983

The Australia ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance (The Burra Charter): 1979, rev. 1981, 1988

The New Orleans Charter: 1991

Mission Statement

Yin Yu Tang is a well-preserved and finely crafted example of vernacular architecture of the Huizhou region, itself renowned for its distinctive architecture. The mission of the Yin Yu Tang project is threefold: to re-erect in the United States and preserve the specific house, its contents, documents, and history; through that re-erection and preservation effort to present the house as an example of Chinese vernacular architecture and the related traditions of decorative arts and artisanry; and to function for diverse audiences as a window to the broader context of Chinese art, architecture, and culture. Yin Yu Tang accomplishes these missions through:

  1. The preservation and care of Yin Yu Tang and the accumulated contents reflecting the history and daily lives of the Huang family in Xiuning County
  2. The exhibition and interpretation of the house and those objects
  3. Educational programs
  4. Support of research in related fields
  5. Assistance in preserving other examples of traditional architecture in Xiuning County
  6. Support of publications and audiovisual materials

The Yin Yu Tang project operates on the belief that architecture can communicate the intrinsic values and rich traditions of a culture and can provide inspiration for all nations' ever-evolving cultures. It is intended that the house be preserved in its entirety in perpetuity and that it continuously be presented in a public forum.

Statement of the Project's Significance

Yin Yu Tang, a mid-Qing period dwelling with its original building fabric almost completely extant with few structural modifications, is the first house to be brought, in its entirety, from China to the United States. It is a landmark in the history of international preservation.

The structure is an excellent example of the famed Huizhou architecture and presents many of the region's characteristic details, such as a "sky well," a second story, "horse head" walls, timber-frame construction, and finely carved lattice windows. The extent of surviving family documents and original household utensils from the house, and the availability of family members for interviews, provides extraordinarily rich resources for understanding the history of the house, the family who lived there, and the broader context of Chinese culture and domestic life.

The project recognizes and respects the integral nature of the entire house, including its architectural design and spatial relationships, its building technology, its creators and stewards over time, and the objects and documents associated with it, as well as the effects of time and age on the visual appearance of the house. The continuity of the house's history, with its modifications, is valued as a complete record of its occupancy and use, representing broader cultural and social changes. In addition, the project honors and intends to carry forward the stewardship of the house from the Huang family, whose transmission of their ancestral residence has made this undertaking possible.

The purpose of the relocation of Yin Yu Tang is to create a venue for informing and educating a diverse public that visits the Peabody Essex Museum about Chinese culture and, at the same time, to maintain an important resource of physical evidence and documentation for scholars to study for years to come.


Original, in the case of Yin Yu Tang, refers to the house and its contents in their entirety through the end of the family's occupancy in August 1997. It is recognized that modifications made to the house and its changes in its contents through August 1997 are of considerable cultural significance.

Preservation is defined as the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of a historic property. Work, including preliminary measures to protect and stabilize the property, generally focuses upon the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction. New exterior additions are not within the scope of this treatment: however, limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a preservation project.

Rehabilitation is defined as the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.

Restoration is defined as the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and characters of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make the properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project.

Reconstruction is defined as the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location.

Re-creation is defined as the accurate rebuilding of a structure to its historic form, but on another site, so that it retains its cultural integrity. Within the context of re-creation, a building, preservation rehabilitation, and restoration may occur.

Re-erection is defined as the act or process of reassembling the dismantled components of a specific building with the end result being the reestablishment, as nearly as possible, of the same freestanding building, although the building may be situated in a new location. Re-erection may also entail some preservation and/or restoration work.

Note: The definitions cited above for: Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction are extracted from the definitions given in The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties - 1978, rev. 1995.

Character-Defining Elements

The project will endeavor in its preservation and re-erection processes, as well as in all future repairs and routine maintenance, to retain the original materials of the building. In addition, the project recognizes that certain character-defining elements convey the essence of the house, and their continuing presence in the structure is basic to the preservation of the character and integrity of the building. Within the overall context of the mission, the project will assign priority to the retention of these character-defining elements. They are:

  1. The plan and spatial relationships of the house
  2. The structural systems
  3. The roof assemblage
  4. The ornamental, custom-crafted features
  5. The inscribed elements
  6. The sandstone walls and paving

In addition, the majority of more generic components in the re-erected structure will be original to the house. In those instances where generic components need to be replaced, the new elements will replicate the appearance of the old, while a maximum feasible amount of the original materials will be retained and incorporated into the fabric of the building.


Documentation, consisting of sketches, measured drawings, photographs, videotapes, written descriptions, condition assessments, and historical documentation, will be compiled as part of the historic structure report process. Special attention will be given to documenting the decision-making process of the project.

Proposed Treatment and Intervention

A basic goal of the project is the presentation of the original building fabric. Therefore, to the greatest extent possible, interventions should not be carried out in a manner that unnecessarily removes historic building fabric, thus precluding preservation efforts of the future. Preservation work should only make use of new technologies that are reversible and which have withstood the test of time.

Moreover, new HVAC, electric, plumbing, and security systems should not be inserted in a manner that does irreversible damage to the structure.

Replacement of Components
New work should be distinguishable upon close inspection, but, overall, should not impair the visual coherence or aesthetic integrity of the building.

In this respect, materials similar in physical and chemical characteristics should be used in replacing original components. All replacement materials will be clearly, but discreetly, marked as such.

To avoid an appearance that never existed historically, the finish of new components will be treated so that they are visually consistent with the original materials of the house. In replacing components, the new should closely match the old in appearance, and only a minimum of original material should be removed to accommodate the new.

All repairs should be carried out using materials that are physically and visually compatible with the adjacent historic building fabric. In certain situations, the use of traditional, local Chinese repair practices should be utilized.

Introduction of New Systems
There may be times when it will be important to introduce new systems to preserve the house for future uses and achieve the goals of the mission. For example, security and fire detection/suppression systems are necessary to ensure the long-term preservation of the house and its contents. The installation of these new systems should be done with the least possible intervention in the historic fabric of the building.

This project places value on maintaining archival material and will demonstrate that regard by retaining in safe storage, where they will be viewable and accessible, items of the following categories:

  1. Building fragments, materials, and components not incorporated into the re-erected building
  2. Examples of new building components introduced to stabilize original elements or to replace historic materials
  3. Family documents
  4. Three-dimensional objects from the house's original collection not on display
  5. Project records and documentation
  6. Cyclical maintenance and repair records

Ongoing Maintenance
Regularly scheduled, cyclical, and consistent maintenance by specialists experienced in the care of historic property is essential to the long term preservation of the house. Therefore, consideration of proposed treatments and interventions should take into account the maintenance requirements of the building. A maintenance schedule and program shall be established, continuously monitored, implemented, and retained. All repairs and all cyclical maintenance shall be recorded for future reference and retained as part of the project's archives.


Duration and Mechanisms for Review
The intention of the project is that these guidelines will be adopted by the owner in perpetuity with the expectation that the document will undergo periodic review, for which a process of revision and adaptation will be established. Any such reconsideration of the guidelines will take into account the intentions of the original project team.

Employment of Guidelines
These guidelines will be distributed to all present and future participants engaged in the present and future re-erection, preservation, interpretation, and maintenance of Yin Yu Tang. They will become part of the permanent record of the house and their continuance as an actively utilized set of standards is expected.

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