Distinctive folk residences kept alive in China

The well-known Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors and their households for almost 500 years. And for folk residences, they are diverse in style and structure in such a vast country. It is logical that travelers visit these historical sites to get some ideas of ancient China. So unusual as to be surprising, distinctive folk houses style of several hundred and even thousand years are kept alive. 

Yaodong; cave dwellings of Han Chinese

Can you imagine millions of Chinese people still live in cave homes? Called "yaodong"(窑洞); in Chinese, these inhabited caves has been a typical residential dwelling on the vast Loess Plateau in northern China for several thousand years.

Cave dwellings are generally carved out of a hillside or excavated horizontally from a central "sunken courtyard". Of the two major types, the former is simply dug into the side of a hill with a facade coated with bricks. The inside walls are usually plastered with lime to make them white.

There are also "underground cave dwellings". People would dig a rectangular well about 5 to 8 meters deep on a piece of flatland first, and then vertically into the walls to form sereral caves. The well was then used as a sunken courtyard, and a sloped walkway is built to provice access to the ground surface.

Tulou, earthen buildings of the Hakka

The tulou(土楼), or "earthen buildings," of Fujian Province in southeastern China are traditional homes built by the ethnic Hakka from the 12th century right up to the 20th. They come in various shapes but are mostly square or circular. Seen from a distance, tulou compounds look like castles.

Fujian Tulou are typically three to five story structures with round wall of rammed earth up to two meters thick. For defensive purposes, there is only one entrance for the whole structure and no windows at the ground level. A Tulou compound has up to hundreds of rooms that open out onto a vast central courtyard.

The majority of the tulou clusters are located in Yongding County, around three-hour bus ride from Xiamen. They are probably the most unique in construction style and structure. Reportedly, these odd-looking houses were once mistaken for missile silos by U.S. satellites in the 1980s.

Diaojiaolou Wooden Houses for several ethnic groups

Just as the photos below show, these stilted wooden houses are built by the mountain slopes or above the water (creak or river). Each has several wood pillars as support; and thus such a leg-hanging building are called "Diaojiaolou" (吊脚楼)in Chinese.

Diaojiaolou are the traditonal residential houses for Buyi, Dong, Miao, Shui, Tujiao and Zhuang ethnic groups. Their homes are usually two to four storeys high. Upper layer is used to store the provisions; people live in the middle; while fowls are sheltered under the house. Sitting high above ground, the design is meant to avoid insects and animals.

A large scale of Diaojiaolou wooden houses can be seen in the southwestern China's provinces Yunnan, Guangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, Hubei, and Sichuan.

Further Reading

  • Easy tour china at facebook
  • Easy tour china at twitter
  • Easy tour china at Pinterest
  • Easy tour china at linked in
PC version
© Copyright 1999-2015 Easy Tour China, a reliable China-based tour operator