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10 Typical Traditional Chinese Houses

Traditional Chinese house refers to a variety of residential architectures created during the imperial era of China. In different regions, different kinds of civilian houses were made to better adapt at the local environment. It’s hard to give a full introduction to all the folk houses in China, here are 10 most characteristic traditional Chinese houses that are still in use.

1.Mongolian Yurt

Mongolian Yurt is a kind of house inhabited by Mongolian nomadic people in old times. It's made of special wood poles and covered with two or three layers of wool felts, and bonded together with ropes made of horse mane or camel. On the top of the yurt is the square-shaped wool felt that can provide ventilation and lightning. The biggest advantage of the yurt is that such house is easy to build, disassemble and move, which make it perfect for nomadic people who migrate a lot along the grassland. The yurt is spacious, comfortable and very practical. Nowadays, most Mongolian people abandoned such housing style, instead, they live in apartment and high buildings just like other people. If you want to experience the yurt, you can book a hotel that resembles such formation or just contact us.

Mongolian Yurt


Siheyuan is a traditional courtyard-style architecture in China. It is usually composed of a big courtyard in the center with houses built in three sides. There are three kinds of Siheyuan buildings. The first kind is one-yard house, which means there is only one yard. The second kind is two-yard house; while the last kind is the three-yard house. Generally speaking, the more yard a house has, the more wealthier the owner is and the higher the proprietor’s social position is. In a big house with three yards, the first yard is the gate house where the servants and doormen live, the second yard is the hall where guests are received, while the last yard is the private rooms for the hosts to live. Siheyuan has a history of over 3000 years, and the most typical Siheyuan is the Beijing Siheyuan.


Visit Siheyuan at a private Beijing Cooking Class

3.Jinzhong Compound

Jinzhong Compound, also known as Shanxi Compound, is a model of Chinese folk architecture. It represented the highest level of civil building in north China. There are about 1,300 existing compounds from Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, and the most famous compounds were the rich people's private compounds in middle Shanxi areas. Such compounds are mostly grand, ingenious and exquisite with fine carvings like wood carvings, brick carvings, and stone carvings, masterpieces of calligraphy, painting and poems, and the private garden.

Qiao's Compound

Visit the unique Jinzhong Compound by admiring the ancient town Pingyao

4.Cave Dwelling

Cave Dwelling is an ancient residential form on Loess Plateau in northwest China. It has a history of over 4000 years and a small fraction people are still living in such a house. On Loess Plateau, the loess layer is very thick, sometimes, it can be tens of kilos in depth. Ancient people took advantage of the landform and dig caves to live. Generally, the cave are fixed with stones or bricks and covered with a thick layer of loess.

Cave Dwellings

See the original cave house at Day Trip to Hanyangling Museum Cave Dwelling and Terracotta Army

8-day Shaanxi Adventure Tour

5.Hui-style Architecture

As one of the most important schools of traditional Chinese architectures, the Hui-style architecture originated from Dongyang building. It uses bricks, stones and timbers as the materials and features big beam frame and various decorations like brick, wooden and stone carvings. Most of the Hui-style buildings are clustered together and all facing the north, therefore, the whole building is well lighted. Meanwhile, the wooden beams are often used as load-bearing frame and the bricks and stones are used to retain the walls. The entire building is often centered with the hall. The Hui-style house, ancestor hall and memorial archway are the three most representative Hui-style architectures.

Hui Style Architecture

Pay a visit to Hongcun and Xidi Villages in Anhui for the picturesque architecture

6.Zhejiang Folk Architecture

Zhejiang Folk Architectures is an important school of traditional Chinese architecture. Such houses are built to adapt at the unique hydrological geography in Zhejiang areas, save land for cultivation and create a better living environment. The Zhejiang folk buildings often have courtyards, open halls and corridors so that the inside and outside spaces are both connected and separated.

Zhejiang Folk House

7.Diaolou in Tibet

Diaolou House is a kind of common building that is often built on the mountain top or nearby a river. The walls are often made of rubble, and to keep the intruders outside, Diaolou is often tall and very solid like a pillbox. It has three floors, the first floor is to store tools and keep livestock. The second and the third floors are rooms for living. As Tibetans are mostly Tibetan Buddhists, sutra hall is a must in Diaolou house and it’s often set up on the roof.

Tibetan Diaolou


Diaojiaolou House in Hunan province is a building on stilts, which means that such building is usually big and only the upper part is used for living. Such houses are mainly distributed in south China, especially along the Yangtze River areas where there are a lot of water and rain, and the air and the earth are extremely humid. This house is particularly great in moisture protection and ventilation. The Diaojiaolou in Hunan is built on the mountain and the rich local Chinese fir is the main material to make the frame. The ground floor is often open in the air and used as a barn for livestock or to store tools. While the upper floor is occupied by people. Besides the living room and bedroom, there is often overhanging corridor on the second floor where people can rest as well. The overhanging corridor column is not made to reach the ground and the horizontal beams stretching out from the floorslab serve at its support. Meanwhile, the corridor column can also help to keep the overhanging corridor steady in the air. The advantages of the Diaojiaolou architecture are pretty obvious. People living on the upper floor can stay away from the wild animals and snakes, and the open lower floor are good for ventilation and moisture prevention.

Bamboo House

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Fujian Tulou refers to the unique large-scale building that functions both as a house and defense fortress in southwest Fujian. There are about 3,000 Tulou buildings in Fujian nowadays. The most distinctive feature of such architecture lies in its function. It serves not only as a house but as a fortress that can defend against the intruders.

There are many types of Tulou structures, Wufenglou, Fanglou and Yuanlou are the most typical ones. The most common one is the three-layered Round House that made of raw soils. One of the most important characteristics of the this house is that the main gate, central hall and the ancestor hall are all sitting on the central axis, while the buildings on both sides are symmetrically arranged. The gate and exit is often placed at the forefront; the central hall is located in the middle layer where family meetings are held and guests are received; while the ancestral hall is set in the innermost layer where the memorial tablets are placed. Besides the unique structure, the windows, porches, eaves and the decorations of the Tulou are also extremely gorgeous and exquisite.


10.Bamboo House

Bamboo house is an indigenous building in Dai minority. There are usually two floors, the lower floor is open in the air for the cultivation of cattle and horses, while the upper floor is the main house for people to live. The indoor layout of the upper floor is very simple. There are usually two parts, living room and the bedroom respectively. Living room is often set nearby the entrance to the wooden stairs. Beside living room is the balcony and the corridor where Dai people love to do chores. Inside the living room, there is a big bamboo carpet in the center and a fireplace on one side where Dai people make food. Further inside the living room is the bedroom where bamboo carpet is also set as bed.

All the beams, columns, walls and accessories of the entire bamboo house are made of bamboos. The main pillar of the house is the most sacred one, and Dai people believed that this pillar can prevent disaster and bring luck. Other parts of the house are also personalized. For instance, the thick column in the middle of the house represents men, while the short column on the side represents women. The ridge represents the phoenix tail, while the corner of the roof symbolize the egret wings.


There are so many kinds of characteristic residential houses in China, each represents a unique custom and culture. By admiring the house local people are living, you can get a better sense of the local people and their culture.