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Architecture Education

The Linden Education Centre: Yang Zhuo Ran’s Home

November 3, 2018

Welcome to the Linden Centre: Yang Zhuo Ran Campus!

Brian and Jeanee Linden originally established The Linden Centre with the goal of creating a place for international cultural exchange and education. Their original vision came to fruition in the form of the Yang Zhuo Ran site, completed in 2011, which is host to international education programs throughout the year. Read on to learn more about the intriguing history of the site.

.jpegMr. Yang’s home, which was also known by the name 卓盧 “Zhuo Lu,” is now the Linden Centre’s education site.  

The Yang Zhuo Ran courtyard, also known as “卓庐” (Zhuo Lu), was originally the home of Mr. Yang Zhuoran, who belonged to one of the eight Xizhou “middle-class” business families. The house was built in 1946 and took a year and a half to complete. The home covers an area of about 800 square meters and consists of a single main courtyard and a smaller north courtyard.

In the first courtyard, to the north, south, and west the architecture consists of black beams, red wood, autumn wood corridors; to the east is a wall of water washed stone. The wall, which faces the Cangshan mountains to the west, features an engraving of the Yang family motto: “清白传家,” which roughly translates to “purity or innocence through the generations.”

.jpegThe old wood found in the courtyard beams & handrails at “Zhuo Lu” shines in the light._01The corridor on the second floor of Zhuo Lu.

The overall conception, design and construction of the house was led by Mr. Yang Zhuoran with help from his family. His second son Yang Bingqing helped to design and draw up the plans; meanwhile, the construction process was supervised by his firstborn daughter Yang Shuzhen and her husband. Instead of going with the traditional style, the Yang family chose to increase the height of both of their building levels. In fact, at the time it was built, it was the tallest building in Xizhou. In addition, the lighting and ventilation were better than most traditional Bai residences. In order to build this family house, Mr. Yang spent a total of what is now about forty million yuan.

When asked about the site, an elderly neighbor had some interesting things to share about the house. Because of the tucked away location of “Zhuo Lu“, the large timber used in its’ construction could not pass through the narrow winding lanes. As a result, Mr. Yang persuaded his neighbor to chisel a big hole in his wall; this hole would allow the timber to pass through. After construction of his home was completed, Mr. Yang paid his neighbor compensation for his wall.


The long narrow walkway that leads to the hidden home.

Mr. Yang began working as an apprentice in his early teenage years leading to his later financial success and independence in society. Nevertheless, he had regrets about not continuing his schooling, and various difficulties he faced in his business career made him realize the importance of knowledge. As a result, he placed a great importance on the education of his children; he encouraged them to study hard and make a good career. So in this sense, the Yang family home became a “private school” for the family children; Mr. Yang often had teachers come to the home to tutor his children. According to one of our site’s security guards, Mr. Zhao, “Yang Zhuoran did not read any books, but his children were very smart. One graduated with Tsinghua University and another even studied abroad.”


Top Left: Mr. Yang Zhuoran and his wife. Top Right: Mr. Yang Zhuoran.

Bottom: Mr. Yang’s wife with her children. Her eldest son graduated from Nankai University, the second son graduated from Tsinghua University, and the youngest son also graduated from Nankai, and received his doctorate degree in Information Science from the University of Karlsruhe in Germany. 

On the eve of liberation, Mr. Yang’s family moved out of Zhuo Lu, which was subsequently used for various purposes including a nursery and education offices. Around 2010, The Lindens took over Zhuo Lu and began using the site as base for place-based educational programming. The Lindens named the site after Mr. Yangzhuo Ran in honor of his passion for education.

The Linden Centre: Yang Zhuo Ran now features eight rooms, including four bunk-bed rooms with four beds each, double, single, and triple rooms.

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Student rooms in Yang Zhuo Ran. 

The Yang Zhuo Ran site’s dining room is located on the first floor of the main courtyard and can host up to 30 students at a time. The cafeteria serves a mixture of local Bai cuisine as well as western comfort foods. All ingredients used in meals are purchased the day of, and dishes served are adjusted according to the requirements of each group. The cafeteria food is both nutritious and delicious!

.jpegThe student dining room at Yang Zhuo Ran.

The second floor of Yang Zhuo Ran features two spacious and brightly-lit classrooms, a library stocked with China-related books, a music room, and a comfy television room. Students often gather in the main courtyard to play a pick-up badminton game or use the various common spaces to chat with friends in between classes.


One of Yang Zhuo Ran’s classrooms.


The library at Yang Zhuo Ran is filled with books on everything from Yunnan history to AP prep to birding guides. 


The TV room at Yang Zhuo Ran is a cosy learning/study environment, and a great place to show films.

The Yang Zhuo Ran site is also equipped with a large supply of bicycles that students can borrow to exercise, travel to nearby villages for research, or explore their surroundings in a relaxing healthy way.


The site is stocked with bikes for students to use on excursions and daily exercise.

In terms of safety and security, the courtyard is staffed 24 hours 7 days a week by two friendly security guards, Mr. He and Mr. Zhao, who are both locals. Fun fact: Mr. Zhao is extremely knowledgeable about Xizhou architecture and history, and was the subject of one of our Winter 2018 Film Workshop documentaries.

Past Education Projects

Since 2012, the Yang Zhuo Ran Institute has hosted a number of international experiential learning programs such as the Sidwell Friends “China Fieldwork Semester” program, the Shanghai American School microcampus project, Middlebury College summer School of the Environment program, and Presidio Knolls Middle School place-based storytelling program.

Sidwell Friends: China Fieldwork Semester


Sidwell Friends students exploring the Xizhou ecological environment 

The China Fieldwork Semester (CFS) is an intensive interdisciplinary project-based student research program in Xizhou, Yunnan, for sixteen 11th or 12th grade students, working together in a research “collaboratory” housed in the Linden Centre.

CFS offers coursework in history, literature, science, and Chinese language, with tutoring support provided for completion of each student’s home school math course. In the past, students have also spent time shadowing local craftspeople and artisans ultimately creating books about their learned craft.

According to the CFS website, “CFS program content focuses on landscape studies as the unifying principle for research projects using a multidisciplinary approach: How do people interact with place, and how have those interactions changed over time?””

Learn more:

Shanghai American Schools: Microcampus

“Microcampus” is a project that was established by Craig Tafel, a Shanghai American school teacher, in 2012. Students spend a month talking to locals about a topic of their own interest, for example, “Xizhou snacks” or “The development of tourism in Xizhou.” Additionally students meet with a  Through several weeks of experiential place-based learning in Xizhou, students will learn skills in cross-cultural communication and understanding, as well as gain personal growth. As of March 2018, teachers and students from Shanghai American School have visited Xizhou for 22 times.

Learn more: Http://

Is Yang Zhuoran open to the independent traveler? Yes!

When the Yang Zhuoran site is not hosting a student group, the courtyard also accepts reservations through platforms such as airbnb, Ctrip, agoda, booking, and even direct booking by emailing The site is most recommended for travelers who love culture and want to have close contact with local life. In comparison to the Linden Centre’s two other Xizhou sites, Yang Zhuoran’s courtyard space is more intimate, cozy, and simple.

In addition to the facilities and services mentioned above, guests staying at the Yang Zhuoran site can also experience the free and paid activities offered by the other two Linden Centre sites.

Original Article:

Original Article Authors: Irene Wu & Kitty Huang

Intro and Translation By: May Braverman



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