Regional Variation

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Climate has a huge impact on the construction of Chinese homes, both because it shapes the materials available and because it determines the kind of shelter people need. Houses in the north respond to the colder, drier climate, while in the south, heat and humidity are major factors influencing design. (Click here to review China's geography)  Some regional variation, however, is a matter of style, unrelated to geography.


Courtyards of houses in the north, such as seen on the left, are often much larger than those in the south, on the right.


What might account for these differences?

Overhead view of a small southern courtyard space, a skywell                                                            source

Overhead view of a courtyard located in the north                                        source



In this photograph of recently built houses, look closely at the type of courtyard and the way the eaves are sometimes flush with the walls. These are visual clues to the location of this village.


Can you explain why these are clues, and whether this village is in the north or the south?







An overhead view of a village                                          source


Both of the dwellings below are rectangular and face south, as do the majority of dwellings in China, but otherwise they show distinct regional styles.


What are some of the differences in style that you see?

Where do you think these houses are found?


Three-bay house                              source

Three-bay house                                  source


Compare the three images below.


What distinguishes them from each other in terms of materials, shapes of roofs, and construction of walls?


Can you see what solutions these builders used to accommodate hot summers in these three houses?





A five-bay house in Zhejiang Province                                   source

Compare the differences in windows and openings in the houses here and below with the houses above.

How do you think the window openings change the interior space?

Yi xian village, Anhui Province                                                       source



Notice how the end or gable walls rise above the rooflines of these houses. The feature is called a "horse's head wall" because of its shape.


Can you guess what might be the purpose of these walls?

Houses in southern Anhui Province                                       source




Houses built along canals are common in the south of China.


What advantages are there to building houses along a canal or a body of water?


Anchang zhen, Shaozing, Zhejiang Province                            source


Below are two views of dwellings in Fujian province in a region where Hakka live in single-lineage dominated villages.  When these houses were built, different lineages were often engaged in armed feuding with each other.


Why do you think these compounds are built as single units that open inward?

View of a village in Fujian province                                          source



Why do you think each dwelling is so large?

An interior view of a large circular Hakka dwelling in Fujian province                                                                             source




A village in Yunnan where many Dai people live.


How do these houses differ from those in the photographs above?

Village in Yunnan Province                                                        source


The building to the left-hand side of the picture, a yurt, is a traditional dwelling of Mongolians.

Traditional dwellings in Inner Mongolia                                     source


What are the major differences between a yurt and other houses seen thus far? 

What reasons could you suggest for the use of a yurt in Inner Mongolia?




Building a yurt in Inner Mongolia                                         source

Although most of the houses pictured here were constructed above ground, other people have dug into the ground to create their dwellings. The tradition of living in caves has a long history that continues to this day in China. Click here to learn more about cave dwellings and to look at some contemporary examples of cave dwellings.

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