Up Timeline and Maps



By the Ming dynasty, we have substantial evidence of how people lived. Not only do some houses survive, but we also have thousands of items of furniture from the period, numerous illustrations of homes in novels and plays published in the period, and even manuals describing how to build houses and furniture. Besides, we know enough about what houses were like in Ming times to know when photographs of modern buildings can be used to illustrate features of Chinese houses already present in Ming times.


How people constructed, decorated, and furnished their homes tells us a lot about their resources, aesthetic preferences, and social habits. This unit covers building structure and the interiors of homes. It offers material to think about both class and regional variation. In China, as in most other societies, houses are a form of material culture with strong connections to family structure. Indeed, like the English word house, the Chinese word jia can be used to refer both to the physical building and the family that occupies it.



Think about the following questions as you look at each aspect of the home environment:


How did geography shape how people met the need for shelter?

What aspects of house design and furnishing cannot be explained by climate?

What can we infer about people's lives from the spaces they created to live in?

Are there features of Chinese furniture that make it especially suited for use in a Chinese house?

What were the biggest differences in the ways the rich and the poor lived? Are these the same sorts of differences one would have found in Europe of the same period?