This northern style traditional Chinese residences
are commonly seen along the Yellow River in Shaanxi and
Shanxi provinces where the soil is highly compact. Though
built with yellow earth, they are green buildings. Very
A sunken courtyard dwelling
in Shanyuan (陕塬), Henan
A typical sunken siheyuan would
have a yard about 6 metres deep with an area size more
than 100 sqms. Around this private open space, 10 or 12
or 14 rooms are dug off the central courtyard, each three
metres high from floor to the top of the arched ceiling,
eight to twelve metres deep from the front door to the
back of the wall.
This traditional Yellow Earth style residence has a history
of over 2000 years. It utilises the materials readily available
nearby, occupies the least farmland and leaves minimum
negative impact on the natural environment.
With ability to maintain a stable temperature during all
seasons, being windproof, noiseproof and quake-resistant,
it is an inspirational example of environmental sustainable
residential housing design that has its core concept rooted
in a culture that respects and reflects the world around
But things are rapidly changing.
Reportedly some officials at a village in Shaanxi province
just want their homeland to look more like anyone else's
homeland, so they tore down the sunken residences and began
to build on-ground houses.
It has catches though. Firstly, the cash-poor villagers
have to pay for the houses which comparing to the semi-cave
dwellings are painfully expensive; not everyone can afford,
and those who cannot have to take refugee at sheds in a
Then, on-ground houses have serious issues with the local
climate conditions which is extremely windy and dry. A
few months later, cracks have appeared in the walls.
Do some village officials really think their ancestors
never knew there was such a thing called on-ground building
so they had no choice but to stay in their sunken dwellings?
Drunkard & A Snake