This post concludes the series of “Chinese Residential Houses” (10 individual posts total.)
Spanning over a vast territory of 9.6 million square kilometers, carrying 1.3 billion people of 56 ancient ethnic groups, China has weaved a series of colorful pictures of different Chinese residential houses: some live in bamboo lofts, some set home above water, some pack their houses on horseback, some enjoy the generous gift of Mother Nature in Yaodong caves…
Here I listed ten types of Chinese residential houses I’ve posted individually. You will get an extensive understanding about what types of houses Chinese people live in.
For further reading about Chinese architecture, I recommend these two books listed right by and , respectively.
Please click the title link or the thumb pic for full article. Enjoy~
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China is a vast territory inhiabitated by several ethnic groups. Xinjiang has a continental climate, “the farthest region to the ocean”, the temperature changes dramaticaly between day and night, known as “fur coat in the morning, yarn at noon; have watermelon close to the stove at night.” In addition, 7 of 13 resident ethnic groups in Xinjiang are Muslims. So the architecture here is deeply influenced by Islamic culture and has its unique regional and ethnic characteristics.
A great poet in Song dynasty ever said: I’d rather to eat without meat, but not to live without bamboo. From this point of view, the Dai ethnic people living in Xishuang-Banna (China’s rainforest area in Yunnan Province) must be the happiest people in the world. They not only live in “bamboo” houses, but also eat bamboo rice, drink bamboo wine. Even the gods should be jealousy about their lives.
Diaojiaolou (literally means hanging attic) is a residential house with a dense architectural flavor of the ethnic minority (Miao, Zhuang, Buyi, Dong, Shui, Tujia Ethnics) in the southwestern provinces (Yunnan, Guangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, Hubei, Sichuan provinces). The wooden building is built close to the mountain or above the water (creek or river) with an extended floor space. These houses are usually built on slopes with only supporting wood pillars and no foundation and are 100% made of wood without iron.
One major geographic characterisitic that distinguished Jiang Nan from Northern China is its abundance in water resources. Plenty precipitates, lakes, rivers, channels, etc. influenced every part of life and culture in Jiang Nan region, including residential houses.
Jiang Nan houses have a unique sense of simplicity: white wall and black tiles, which represents the humbleness of Jiang Nan people.
On the vast plateau of Mongolian Highland, cold wind from Siberia blows across the Gobi desert and grasslands, while many big white tents are standing in the harsh winter. They are the Mongolian yurts.
Mongolian yurts are a type of portable, felt-covered, wood lattice-framed dwelling structures in which the Mongolian nomads (and many other ethnic nomads) live. The advantage of yurt can be summed up as one word: “easy”.
One of the major differences between Chinese architecture and western architecture is the usage of material. Chinese buildings mainly use wood while westerners use stones because of availability of these construction materials. For this reason, Europe has lots of ancient castles preserved through centuries while most Chinese buildings cannot survive the turmoil of hard times.
However, it does not mean that we don’t have good stone buildings in China.
Owning a house is now symbolized as an essential part of so-called “American Dream”. You might want to ask what the Chinese version of housing dream looks like? The answer is siheyuan (四合院，Si-he-yuan)
Siheyuan is a common style of Han Chinese housing, dated to Zhou Dynasty (1, 100 – 256B.C.). It generally composes of enclosed square yard surrounded with houses on four or three sides.
Buyei is the second largest (Miao is the 1st) major minority ethnic group in Guizhou province, They have a wide distribution in Guizhou province as well as some area of Yunnan and Guangxi. They are mostly concentrated at southern Guizhou. In this area, you can enjoy a very original taste of Buyei experience.
If we consider the Qiang village a defensive castle, the Buyei village is relatively less aggregated. In the mountains of southern Guizhou, it produces very good Shale stone material, a type of sedimentary rock. Buyei people take advantage of this and build stone sheet houses with a very unique style.
In 1960s, when US started to use military satellites to gather intelligent information, they found numerous “nuclear reactors” hidden in the mountains of Fujian Province in southern China. Greatly alarmed, they sent officers to investigate the situation, only to find that these “nuclear reactors” or “missile silos” were in fact harmless earth buildings where the Hakkas had been living for centuries!
In the prehistoric era our ancestors live in natural caves, during the long history of civilization, we learned how to build beautiful houses and buildings for us to live in. The designs are really diversified around the world according to people’s need, culture difference, local environment, and availability of material.
In the loess plateau of Shaanxi province in northwestern China, people are still living in caves, not natural caves. People built these cave dwellings – Yaodong.