Earth as building material

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Earth has been a common building material through Chinese history.  During the Neolithic period, people lived in caves or built their homes above ground using wattle and daub technique. More substantial, load-bearing walls can also be made of pounded earth, a technique that also has a long history in China. Here is an example of how these houses are made.

A wooden frame is constructed to hold the earth, and then the dirt is pounded into place.

In terms of actual construction, what might be some of the advantages of building with earth?


Building an earthen wall, Xian area, Shaanxi Province             source


After the earth dries, the wooden frame is removed. The mold is being removed here, revealing an earthen wall that is free-standing. The impressions left by the mold can hold plaster after the wall dries.


Not all earthen walls are plastered. 

In what regions might plastered walls be preferred?




How do you think the wall is given stability? 




What might be some advantages to living inside a building with earthen walls?         

 An earthen wall, Xi'an area, Shaanxi Provincesource




Earth is also used to make bricks in several ways. In general, dirt or clay can be formed by frames and dried. Sometimes the earth is fired to make the bricks harder, but other times the earth is just left to dry in the sun.


Earth being used to fill frames for bricks, Gansu province                                                    source


In Southern China, bricks can also be cut directly from a field after harvest and left to dry in the sun before they are fired. Here are some examples of this process from Guangxi province.


After the earth is smoothed into place, the bamboo handles are used to lift up and move the mold.


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