Chinese and Western peasants homes.

Sep 2018
17
Germany
#1
I wanted to ask, how typical peasant dwellings in China compare to thou in the west in premodern times. In "The age of Confucian rule" I read, that such dwellings were usually windowless in China, I think most western houses had windows. But I also have seen depictions of Chinese peasant dwellings with windows. I don't know how socially stratified Chinese villages were and have no idea of what the majority lived in.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,521
Dispargum
#2
By window, do you mean with glass or do you also include any hole in the wall that lets in light and air as well as birds and insects?

I doubt there were any hard and fast rules. Construction techniques would play a role. It's easy to put a window in a wall if the building is built with post and frame construction. Load-bearing walls allow only very small windows and might be difficult to cut or install. Post and frame vs load-bearing walls would in turn be influenced by available building materials. Until recently the first rule of architecture was 'Build using local materials' so how a house is built will vary from place to place. Climate is another factor. In a harsh climate a window is a liability. In a moderate or warm climate a window is desirable or even necessary.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#3
I wanted to ask, how typical peasant dwellings in China compare to thou in the west in premodern times. In "The age of Confucian rule" I read, that such dwellings were usually windowless in China, I think most western houses had windows. But I also have seen depictions of Chinese peasant dwellings with windows. I don't know how socially stratified Chinese villages were and have no idea of what the majority lived in.
By "premodern" times, do you mean any period from late medieval period and earlier , or do you mean anything earlier than the 19th century?

Also, what region? Italy would be different from England .

In medieval times, daub and wattle with a thatched roof was common. A timber frame work was constructed with wall space between the timers filled with a mesh of woven twigs (wattle) and a daub of mud and straw was applied over this mesh of woven twigs,. A roof of thatch (straw/grass with twigs providing supoort) was put on top. Small opening without glass were placed in the walls, with wooden shutters I think, and there was a second floor loft you reached with a ladder. There were 2 rooms, with the family sleeping quarters I one room, and a fire place in the other, with a hole the room to allow.smoke escape. Later on, as families became better off, they could add a chimney, and glass to the windows.

In most areas, the barn was separate, but in parts of Germany, the barn was part of the same structure as the house.

As I said, designs in different regions were different. Ireland built homes out.of turf/peat they cut from the ground, and Scandinavia used wood shingles instead of thatch and Italy used tile for the roofs, I believe.
 
Feb 2011
6,233
#4
I wanted to ask, how typical peasant dwellings in China compare to thou in the west in premodern times. In "The age of Confucian rule" I read, that such dwellings were usually windowless in China, I think most western houses had windows. But I also have seen depictions of Chinese peasant dwellings with windows. I don't know how socially stratified Chinese villages were and have no idea of what the majority lived in.
I would like to see the quote from "Age of Confucian Rule" where it said dwellings were windowless. I think most dwelling designs have some sort of window, because windows are pretty essential for lighting in most buildings prior to the advent of electricity. Nobody wants to use candles each and every time they go inside, especially if it's during the day.

China's a big place with a long history so peasant dwellings vary a lot.

The stereotypical one is the Siheyuan type: Courtyard flanked by buildings (may or may not be interconnected) along the walls which surround courtyard. I would say most Chinese dwellings base their design off of this type starting from at least the Han dynasty and continuing to many of today's Hutong's:



Homes with central courtyards isn't just a unique Chinese phenomenon, a lot of different societies adopted something similar to this. This is because the residents could get lighting from the sun, while still maintaining some privacy by having the windows face the courtyard rather than face out into the street where by-passers could see through (or break and enter).

Southern China have many tulou buildings dotting the landscape, primarily associated with the minority Hakka group. These are usually round or square in shape, with an open space in the center. The open space may contain an additional building. Usually the first floor is for business and kitchen, middle floor is for storage, and upper floors are for living quarters. So each family unit would be living in what is essentially a multistory condo. Tulou doubles as a fort in case of bandit attacks.




I remember a story where during the Cold War, the US took satellite pictures of these Tulou and thought they were nuclear silos. Not sure how accurate the story is.

In the North, there are the Yaodong cave dwellings. The low temperature of the North meant that people looked for a type of dwelling that acted as an insulator at minimum cost, so they just dug into a hillside or into the ground like a hobbit:




Xi Jinping used to live in one when he was younger and had little hope of becoming President:


I'm just giving three of the most cliched types of dwellings (with the first type being by far the most common). There are many other types as well.
 
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Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
32,129
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#6
I don't know that much about Chinese peasant housing, but there are a number of preserved Japanese peasant farmhouses dating from the 16th century, and these generally had few, if any windows. Light was let in by opening the large doors, and what windows there were, were small, with wooden bars.
 
Feb 2011
6,233
#7
I don't know that much about Chinese peasant housing, but there are a number of preserved Japanese peasant farmhouses dating from the 16th century, and these generally had few, if any windows. Light was let in by opening the large doors, and what windows there were, were small, with wooden bars.
Can you show these Japanese farmhouses?
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
32,129
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#8
Can you show these Japanese farmhouses?
I physically visited them in two open air museums near Tokyo, but I don't have any photos I'm afraid. But you can take a virtual tour of some of them from one of the museum's websites:
Reconstructed Buildings│Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum

The other museum I went to had older buildings, but I don't know the name of the museum, since a friend took me. All I remember is that it's in the same town as the Doraemon museum.:)
 
Feb 2011
6,233
#9
Here's some excavation of Han dynasty farming homes:

共发现居址6处,砖窑址7座,水井11眼,以及道路等遗迹........ 据遗迹现象推测,三道壕的房址原是一种土墙、木柱、草瓦盖顶的小房舍,比较简陋。在聚落遗址中6个居住址面积分别是20×13、38×15、34×18、30×16、30×18、22×3平方米。

Discovered 6 residential sites, 7 brick kilns, 11 wells, and other remains such as roads....... According to the remains, SanDaoHao’s building sites were originally small houses with earthen walls, wooden columns, and thatched roofs. They are relatively simple. The six residential sites in the settlement ruins have an area of 20x13 [260 sq meters], 38x15 [570 sq meters], 34x18 [612 sq meters], 30x16 [480 sq meters], 30x18 [540 sq meters], and 22x3 [660 sq meters] square meters. -http://economy.guoxue.com/?p=7534


Not sure how accurate this reconstruction is:



Although the article says that 6 residential sites were discovered in the 1950s, the map it provided show 7 residential sites. It's possible that the six sites were found in the 1950s and another residential complex was found at a later date.

There is also the excavation at SanYangZhuang in which the residences are of much higher quality (brick tiled roofs, some have stone foundations and drainage pipes), in which only the floor plan of the largest and smallest residence are shared so far:




Note that the excavated picture to the left has the North facing the right side, whereas the floor plan has the North facing the top side. Don't know why they didn't align the direction of the two pictures.

Another much, much more thorough albeit somewhat different interpretation of building #2 is shown in academic article "A Research and a Discussion on the Restoration of the Han Architectural Site of Courtyard Complex 2, Sanyangzhuang Village, Neihuang, Henan Province"



The floor plan shows the compound to be quite huge, at 56 chi by 103 chi (~19 x 34 sq meters), excluding the two rooms jutting out on the West which are 15.5 chi by 44 chi (~5 x 15 sq meters) , and the restroom which is 9 chi by 8.5 chi (~3 x 3 sq meters). That's a total of around 721 square meters excluding the restroom.

The above excavations are why I said that the Siheyuan type of residential complex was existent since at least the Han dynasty.
 
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#10
Windows were never much of an issue in Chinese architecture because traditional designs placed the weight of the roof on columns, not the walls. This allowed for pretty large windows and doorways if needed. No glass though. Just thin paper and a wooden grate. They could be opened though to let in air.