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Cave Dwellings and Siheyuan (Chinese Courtyard Houses)

The cave dwellings and Chinese courtyard houses are characteristic dwelling buildings of the Han nationality.

According to the textual research of ancient architects, more than 4000 years ago, Han people living on the northwest loess plateau have a custom of "digging a cave and living in." Up till now, the cave dwelling type of houses are distributed in the provinces or autonomous regions of the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River. Its population is more than 40 million.

The cave dwelling is divided into three types, earth cave, brisk cave, and stone cave. The earth cave is comparatively primitive. At the naturally vertical broken precipice or abrupt slope, people sharpen a section of cliff and dig caves in it. The inside caves present the arch shape, composing of door opening, corridor, and rooms, etc. The earth cave is very firm. After the Long March, the Red Army reached the northern Shanxi Province, where they dug and lived in cave dwellings to insist on resisting against the Japanese invasion. In his cave dwelling in Yan'an, Chairman Mao Zedong led the War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945) and wrote many glorious works, such as "On Practice," "Contradiction Theory," "Talking about the protracted war," etc. Still remaining today, those cave dwellings state the legendary history to the home and abroad visitors.

SiheyuanThe brisk cave dwelling is generally made up of bricks and built at the soft yellow land site. The stone cave dwelling is commonly built against the mountain facing the south with selected stones by their quality, lamination and color. It is often carved with many kinds of patterns. The cave dwelling does not occupy the cultivated land and destroy the topographical features of the ground, benefiting the ecological balance instead. Also in the cave dwelling, it is cool in summer and warm in winter. It is a local-style building of the northern Han people.

Siheyuan is a local-style dwelling house for the Northern urban Han people. Already developing into shape in the Han Dynasty, it was used extensively when in the Tang Dynasty. There is a square courtyard in the middle and houses are built around. The scale of Siheyuan varies. The large-scale Siheyuan may have gardens and pavilions inside. Large or small, the roof is all built with the axis as the center. Siheyuan is mostly in closed pattern and the overall arrangement is rigorous and quiet. Staying in the house, one feels cool in summer and warm in winter. The Beijing Siheyuan is basically all built along the direction of lanes and streets. The buildings where the large families live in as described in Lao She's "Si Shi Tong Tang" and Ba Jin's "Family" all fall into the category of Siheyuan. The famous Grand View Garden features the quintessence of Siheyuan architecture art.


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