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Nine Types of Residential Houses Chinese People Live In

China is a country with a long history, a rich cultural tradition and an ancient civilization. On this land, our ancestors left us an abundance of splendid, time-honored architectural legacy, which has undergone thousands of years of development to become a distinct part of world architectural history.

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---

Chinese Residence -- Earliest Form of Architectural Art
      Before the Qin Dynasty (221-206BC), the residential houses both for emperors and folks were all called palace. The term palace became a specific title for emperors'  residence since the Qin and Han dynasties (221BC-220AD). In modern times, all the other residential houses except palace and official buildings are called folk residence.


  The Chinese wooden framework house first appeared in the late Neolithic age. The Hemudu Culture Site (5,000-3,300BC) in Yuyao County, Zhejiang Province reflected the wood construction techniques of this period. The Banpo Site in Xi'an and Yangshao Culture Site in Jiang village, Lintong, Shaanxi Province revealed the overall arrangement of villages and constructions of this period. Chinese residences can be divided roughly into nine kinds: 


Beijing's Siheyuan (Courtyard Houses of North China)


Beijing's Siheyuan (Courtyard Houses of North China)
    This is the most important form of Chinese traditional residential house. It is great in number and wide in distribution, popular among the Han, Manchu, Bai, and some of other minority groups. Most of the houses are of wood framework. The principal room is built on the south-north axis, and two wing rooms are located on both sides of it. The family elders live in the principal room and wings are the bedrooms for the younger generations. Women live in the inner yard. Guests and male servants live in the outer yard. This distribution is in accordance with the feudal rules. Siheyuan spreads over towns and villages throughout China, but each developed its own characteristics as a result of respective natural conditions and different way of life. Siheyuan in Beijing is the most representative with its own style.


Jiang Nan Residence

Jiang Nan Residence Residential houses distributed in areas south of the Yangtze River have a lot of names, but the overall arrangement is generally the same with Siheyuan. The difference between the two is that houses in the south have smaller yards (or Tianjing), with only two functions: drainage and daylighting. The principal room in the first yard is usually a big hall. The yards in the back are usually smaller, mostly with storied buildings. Roof covered with small tiles and floor with flagstones help to adapt the rainy climate in the south. Houses in watery regions are usually built along rivers, with the front door leading to the alley and backdoor facing the river. Every household has a small dock where they do the washing, bailing and getting on boats. There are two typical types of Jiang Nan residential houses: Huizhou (Anhui & Jiangxi) type and Jiangzhe type (Jiangsu & Zhejiang).


Kaiping Diaolou and Villages

Kaiping Diaolou and Villages feature the Diaolou, multi-storeyed defensive village houses in Kaiping, which display a complex and flamboyant fusion of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. They reflect the significant role of émigré Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are four groups of Diaolou and twenty of the most symbolic ones are inscribed on the List. These buildings take three forms: communal towers built by several families and used as temporary refuge, residential towers built by individual rich families and used as fortified residences, and watch towers. Built of stone, pise, brick or concrete, these buildings represent a complex and confident fusion between Chinese and Western architectural styles. Retaining a harmonious relationship with the surrounding landscape, the Diaolou testify to the final flowering of local building traditions that started in the Ming period in response to local banditry.


Earth Towers of the Hakkas

Earth Towers of the Hakkas is a unique style of Chinese village architectures. In terms of architectural characteristics, the rounded earth tower is more traditional with the Hakkas and is a typical example of a Hakkas folk residence.The Earthen Tower is the residences of Kejia people in Fujian and Guangdong provinces. The ancestor of Kejia people were Han people who migrated to the south from the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River  over 1900 years ago. They built large residences of earthen towers so as to protect their family. One such tower is able to hold a score of families of a whole clan with a total of several hundred people. The towers are round or square in shape, and the round-shaped tower is the most impressive. It is made up of two or three circles of houses. The outer circle could be more than ten meters high, with 100 to 200 rooms. The ground floor is used as kitchens and dinning rooms while the second floor is used for storage. The third and fourth floors are the living quarters and bedrooms. The second circle has two stories with 30 to 50 rooms. They are mostly used as rooms for guests. In the middle there is an ancestral hall with a holding capacity of several hundred people where pubic activities are carried out. Within an earthen tower, there are bathrooms, toilets and a well. The huge size and the unique design of the earthen tower are highly praised by many architects all over the world.


Cave Dwelling of Northwest China



Cave Dwelling of Northwest China
     Cave dwellings are mainly distributed in central and west provinces like Henan , Shanxi, and Shaanxi , where the loess is of great depth. The loess has little seepage and a very strong vertical nature, which provides a very good precondition for the development of cave dwellings. The cave dwelling is cool in summer, warm in winter and saves space. It is a harmonious combination of natural environment and human activities. Traditional cave dwellings are round, which seems dexterous and lively in monotonous loess. Cave dwelling shows the concept that the heaven is round and the earth is square, and the window high on the circular arch can let sunshine go into the cave so that people in the cave can fully enjoy the sunshine. There are three types of cave dwelling, which are earth kiln , stone kiln and brick kiln cave dwellings


The Ganlan wood Shaped Houses of South China


The Ganlan wood Shaped Houses of South China 
        Ganlan (a wood or bamboo storied house) are mainly distributed in the southwest provinces of China, such as Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangdong and Guangxi. It is the residence for Dai, Jingpo, Zhuang and other minority groups. 
     A Ganlan usually stands alone, separated from other Ganlan houses. Supported by poles, the living sector of Ganlan is usually on the second floor high above the ground, while the first storey is retained for raising domestic animals and storing; in this way Ganlan can ward off moisture, as well as the attack of insects, snakes and other animals.  


Tibetan Vernacular Dwellings 


Tibetan Vernacular Dwellings
Diaofang (Stone Chamber) is the most popular kind of dwellings in Tibet and some areas in Inner Mongolia. According to The History of Later Han Dynasty, this stone and earth dwellings existed before 111 AD. The height of the dwellings varies from two to three storeys. Built mostly of stone and earth, they look like Diaolou (blockhouse), and hence got the name of Diaofang. The origin of its name can be traced back to 1736 in the era of Qianglong Reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
     The first floor is often used for livestock and poultry, and the second is retained as bedrooms, living rooms, kitchen and storehouse. Some have a third floor for the family sutra hall and the balcony.
    The nomadic Mongolians and Tibetans also live in tents, which are convenient to assemble and unassembled.


Mongolian yurts



Mongolian yurts
     The Mongolian felt tent in northwest China is called Mongolian yurts. The wooden wattles are fastened with leather thongs and studs to form a fence-like structure. Each part of the yurt is ingenious and quite convenient to dissemble and carry. The diameter of a small yurt is about four to six meters, with no pillar inside, while the bigger one needs two to four poles to support the yurt. There are thick felts on the ground. Every yurt has an opening on the top, and there's usually a stove under it.


Ayiwang Uyghur Houses in Xinjiang

Ayiwang Uyghur Houses in Xinjiang
    Ayiwang is the Uygur residence. The houses are all connected together, with yard around them. The front room with a skylight is called Ayiwang, also known as summer room, which serves as the living room as well as reception room. The back house called winter room is the bedroom, usually without a skylight. The plane arrangement is very ingenious and there are usually a lot of niches inside the rooms. The walls are usually decorated with gesso carvings.


      There are also some  Qiang residential houses are square flat-roof buildings built with stone pieces. Most of them have three floors, each floor is about three meters high. The upper floors are for human living and the ground floor is left for storage and livestock. The flat roof can be used for family open air activities and for grain drying. The spaces between stone pieces are filled with earth tightly to make it proof of rain, wind, or snow. These houses are cool in summer and warm in winter, which makes it very nice living place for the mountain tribes. other special residential houses such as the boat house. Nowadays, as a result of economic development, population increase and modernization, people in the cities usually live in storied buildings, which have increasingly diversified styles and a tendency of height rise.


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