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Wooden Stilted Houses, Ethnic Dwellings in Southwestern China


Wooden stilted houses in China (or Diao Jiao Lou in Chinese) are houses raised on piles over the surface of water. Traditional wooden stilted houses, mainly found in Southwestern China, are residential houses of Miao, Dong, Tujia, Zhuang and Buyi ethnic groups. The wooden building is built close to the mountain or above the water with an extended floor space. The wooden houses are usually built on a mountain slope and above the water, all made of wood, without any nails or rivets.


Standing on a slope and supported by several wooden columns, these houses look precarious, but they are actually pretty stable and safe. They usually have two to three stories with a veranda. The ground floor is served as livestock sheds or storehouse for equipments and firewood; while the second floor and above is for family living.



To ethnic people who are living in the stilted house, it is not a simple shelter against wind and rain but also a practical, graceful and artistic architecture best harmonizing with the surrounding natural environment.


Why to build it?


When ancient Chinese pioneers moved from north to hilly southwestern China, they suffered a lot from the beasts, reptiles, and insects in the mountain forests. First they set fire to keep beasts away from colony, but people were still often bitten by snakes and scorpions. Therefore an old smart leader in the tribe invented wooden stilted houses to keep wild animals off. Since the building is high above the ground, people can also stay away from the humidity and prevent humidity related diseases such as Rheumatism.


Places to see stilted houses in China


Xijiang, a Miao village of about 1000 Miao ethnic families, is located at the foot of the Leigong Mountains along the Bai River in Leishan County in southwestern Guizhou Province. The wooden stilted houses in this area are usually built one next to another on a 30-70 degree mountain slope, which forms a magnificent view.


The west area of Hunan Province of China is a mountainous area in which many ethnic groups live, including Han, Tujia, Miao, Hui, Yao, Dong, Zhuang, etc. The integration of cultures of various ethnic groups has endowed stilted house with rich and diversified cultural connotations. For example, the stilted house of Tujia ethnic minority embodies the universal view of the coexistence of human and God. And the Dong people like to beautify the environment through such measures as carving the chapiters of the house into bamboo shape, and carving flower patterns on the banisters of the corridor. The Fenghuang Ancient City, a well-preserved historical and ethnic town in western Hunan, is a famous place to see traditional stilted houses in China.


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