Yin Yu Tang's formal entrance penetrates a stone and brick masonry curtain wall.
Yin Yu Tang's formal entrance penetrates a stone and brick masonry curtain wall.

Should you ever find yourself in historic Salem, Mass., skip the wacko occult shops — okay, stock up on black candles or whatever — and head over to the Peabody Essex Museum for a walk-through tour of beautiful Yin Yu Tang, an estate built circa 1800 to 1825 in Southeastern China.

This two-story merchant's house is essentially a post-and-beam structure with stone and brick masonry curtain walls. Its substantial ceramic tile roof is entirely supported by the wood framing. Surprising details include original "prefabricated" construction methods that use some truly mind-boggling mortise-and-tenon joinery to connect...

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