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Yaodong, Unique Dwelling in Loess Plateau


Yaodong, means arched tunnels, widely existed in Loess Plateau in the northern part of China. It has been served as a kind of cave dwelling for a long history. Until now more than 40 million Northern Chinese people are living in such ancient and traditional architectures as their dwelling. Yaodong mainly stretches across six provinces, such as Shanxi, Shanxxi, Gansu, and Henan. These cave dwellings are created by digging a large pit in the ground. Around the perimeter of this pit caves are then dug to be used as rooms.



In each province yaodong has their different shapes and size according to the geographic condition. In Shanxi Province, as most yaodongs were built horizontally along the vertical earth cliff, each one is about 3-4 meters wide and 5-9 meters deep. The top of the Yaodong is dug into a semi-circular or slotted barrel arch. Seeing from the level of ground, a person could only see the treetops of the ground yard but not the houses. In Gansu Province, people sometimes plant some plants or field grain on the roof.


As a form of folk house, Yaodong is featured as cool in summer and warm in winter. This is due to the nature of Loess Plateau, which keeps constant temperature inside the caves. To be specific, the natural condition of dry weather, little rain, cold winter and limited timber also creates an opportunity for the development and continuity of cave dwellings which are warm in winter, cool in summer, very economical and require no timber in construction. By the way, an interesting kind of bed, named “Kang” is a special scene inside Yaodong. The tips are stoves putting under the bed, these stoves are also been used to cook and heat things. How brilliant the ancestors!



Compare to live in buildings above the ground, Chinese people love Yaodong since it is where they were originated. For a large part of Chinese people who work and live in cities, their parents or grand-parents are still living in the country, in Yaodongs. Although a number of Yaodongs are equipped with modern furniture and technology nowadays, they reserve much of the traditional life style and Chinese folks.

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