Cave Dwellings

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Cave dwellings are common in certain areas of northern China where they serve as homes for more than 40 million people. In the provinces of Shaanxi and Shanxi where the yellow earth (called loess) is quite compacted, cave houses have been in use for centuries. Below is a picture of this terrain in Shaanxi.

Loessal terrain in Southern Shaanxi                                          source


There are two main kinds of cave dwellings, both of which are shown below.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in cave dwellings?                           


The first type of cave dwellings are those carved out of the side of a cliff. Cliffside dwellings are often south-facing, and the facades are sometimes faced with bricks or stone.


Why are the exterior openings framed with arches?

Cave dwellings with stone facing in Suide, Shaanxi Province        source



The second type of cave dwelling is built where there are no hills. In this situation, people create sunken courtyards. After digging a courtyard that is usually about 10 meters deep, rooms are dug off the main courtyard. A large sunken courtyard complex, or pit dwelling, can have a courtyard as large as one hundred square meters.


The courtyards of cliff dwelling are usually larger than those of pit dwellings, because they are easier to create than sunken courtyards which must be excavated.


What problems might be encountered in living in a pit dwelling?

A boy walks along the top of a sunken courtyard home in Shaanxi                      source




As you look at the pictures below, think about where the family members might spend most of their time.

Courtyard of pit dwelling, Shaanxi Province                            source


View upwards from a sunken courtyard in Shaanxi Province      source 


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