A Courtyard of Wang’s Compound, Pingyao
Wang’s Compound PicturesTraditional Chinese residences reflect the national culture, the sub-culture of a specific region and that of the ethnic group within it. The traditional domestic architecture of China has five major styles.
Courtyards in Beijing (Siheyuan) or compounds with courtyards in northern China
Farmers’ Caves (Yaodong) in Northern Shaanxi Province
Earthen Buildings of Hakkas (Tulou) in southeast China’s Fujian Province
Seal-like Compound (Yikeyin) in Yunnan province
Stilt Houses (Diaojiaolou) on steep inclines or projecting over water in southern China
As well as their respective features, traditional residences tend to conform to their environment and to become integrated with it. They are expected to blend with the surrounding rivers and mountains, thus complimenting but never spoiling the natural beauty. Our ancestors made use of local materials and took the natural factors into consideration whenever they built a house.
The Si he yuan in northern China features a thick roof and walls and a wide courtyard to draw in maximum sunlight while ventilation is a prime feature of the diao jiao lou in the much warmer tropical climate of southern China.
The Si he yuan in Beijing reflects the formal royal ambiance with its symmetrical style while garden-residences such as the famous Garden of the Master of the Nets in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, gives priority to a harmonious blend with nature. Prince Gong’s Mansion in Beijing is the world’s largest Si he yuan. Si He Yuan vary substantially in different locations. For details, please refer to: Beijing’s Hutong and Courtyard , Qiao’s Compound and Wang’s Compound in Pingyao, and Dang Village in Hancheng around Xian of Shaanxi Province.
In calligraphy, the Chinese characters with a roof-like component relate to various houses. For example, with a pig, it is a home; with a cow, it is a prison; with a combination of two mouths it means ‘many houses’ – it is palace. Such characters combined with that for ‘ woman’ imply peace and safety. The logic behind this is based on two layers of meaning. Firstly, when a woman sits peacefully at home, it means there is no war. Secondly, when they lived in simple caves in open air, our ancestors faced the hazards of bad weather, wild animals and hostile tribes. By building houses, they were better protected, thus there was safety.
Chinese folk residence appears in different forms. Around Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, there are many well preserved old towns such as Luzhi Town, Tongli Town and Zhouzhuang. The peaceful atmosphere in these towns attracts numerous visitors to come for relaxation and refreshment. The unique ethnic residences are really eye openers. In Guizhou Province, Langde Miao Ethnic Minority Village is a fascinating place to discover the unique Miao’s builing – “Diaojiaolou” (stilt-houses). Visit these beautiful places, you will know more about the colorful Chinese architecture.