Please note this blog post is sponsored by The Peabody Essex Museum. To read more about that, click here. If you are a Salem, MA or north shore based business interested in working with me, please click here. Please also note all images included are © Things to do in Salem, LLC and may not be used without permission. Thank you!

Hi everyone, happy Monday and welcome back to the blog. Did you know that Salem is home to the country’s oldest continuously operating and collecting museum? The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is an absolute favorite of mine and it’s a wonderful way to spend the day in Salem. This goes double for rainy days when you are looking for something indoors.

The PEM recently invited me along to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Yin Yu Tang House with them. The Yin Yu Tang House is located at the museum and entry is included in your general admission. So what exactly is the house? During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a prosperous merchant surnamed Huang built a stately sixteen-bedroom house in China’s southeastern Huizhou region, calling his home Yin Yu Tang. Among the many literary interpretations of this name is the desire for the home to shelter generations of descendants. Yin Yu Tang was home to the Huang family for more than two hundred years until 1982 when the last descendants moved from the village. This house was strategically packed up and moved from China to be safely reassembled at the Peabody Essex Museum. It is a true “wow” and a hidden gem that is actually right in plain sight. Stepping into the Yin Yu Tang House is truly like transporting yourself back in time.

The first floor bedrooms have intricately carved lattice windows that look out onto two fish pools in the central courtyard. These details tell as much about the aspirations, identity, and creative expression of the Huang family as they do about the architectural heritage of the region.

The family’s well-documented genealogy and the accumulation of furnishings passed down through eight generations offer the opportunity to understand historical changes in China as they affect individuals in their daily lives and cultures on a global scale.

With the museum’s already extensive collections of Asian art and period architecture, the acquisition of Yin Yu Tang provides unrivaled opportunities to explore the artistic and cultural heritage of rural China and the multi-faceted, often surprising, connections between Asia and America.

I was thrilled to hop on a guided tour of the Yin Yu Tang House which brought us around the lower floor, then the upper. We even got to take the original staircase to climb to the upper level which has not been allowed to the public for many years! This was a special feature of the guided tours that took place on the 20th anniversary.

Each area has original artifacts and décor that is unique to this home and to the original residents. I absolutely recommend stopping at the PEM and touring the Yin Yu Tang house during your visit to Salem.

Once I was done with my tour I had about an hour until the festivities began in the main atrium, beginning with opening remarks from the PEM and from members of the Huang family who visited us all the way from China for these events. With this buffer of time I headed to my favorite exhibit within the museum, “All the Flowers Are for Me” by Anila Quayyum Agha.

I could stare at this exhibit and the patterns it creates on the walls for hours. This photo I took truly doesn’t even do it justice. After hanging out at this exhibit for a while, it was time to head back down to the main atrium for the opening remarks and performances. The following are the photos I took during that portion of the day.

How incredible are those costumes and makeup? The bright colors and music made for amazing performances. It was such a pleasure to experience. At this point I had to head out but the festivities continued with drop-in art making, lectures, performances, music and more, all in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Yin Yu Tang house.

If you weren’t able to be at the PEM on Saturday when all of this happened, don’t worry. You can still tour the Yin Yu Tang House, as mentioned, and the museum has a collection of permanent exhibits that are ongoing as well as new ones all of the time. There is always something to see each time you visit. Currently the PEM is featuring Gu Wenda: United Nations through 11/5/23, After Hope: Videos of Resistance through 12/31/23 and As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic through 12/31/23 among others. Head to the PEM’s website for a current list of everything you can enjoy within the museum. Upcoming the PEM has Gio Swaby: Fresh Up, The Salem Witch Trials: Restoring Justice as well as an exhibit called Bats! which will be open in August and September, respectively. Again, please reference the PEM’s website for a current schedule of exhibits.

Thank you so much to the PEM for inviting me into the museum to enjoy the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Yin Yu Tang house! If you are planning a visit to Salem any time soon I highly recommend scheduling a day to wander the PEM. The museum is quite large and is packed with incredible history. It’s such an easy and amazing way to spend a day in Salem and it’s truly a gem in the witch city.