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Huizhou Dwellings

An Introduction to Huizhou Dwellings

Huizhou is an area strong in traditional family values and the people there attach great significance to feng shui in selecting a spot to build a house. People who share the same surnames formed clans and live together as a community. The ancestral temple, which formed the core of the community, is where sacrificial rites and ceremonies and other clan activities are held. This results in a community that is bonded, literally, by blood. Generations of people of this same clan built their houses around the ancestral temple.

The typical residential dwelling of Huizhou employs the layout of a courtyard house. This building structure is popular in the regions of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Jiangxi. In general, when one enters through the main gate, he is greeted by a courtyard, which forms the center of the residence. All the rooms at the four sides of the courtyard would drain water towards the courtyard. This is symbolic in the sense that money, which is symbolized by water, will not flow out of the house. Next, one will see a partly opened main hall, flanked by side rooms. Behind the main hall are the staircase and the kitchen. The staircase can also be set in the space between the main hall and the side room. Connected by a corridor, the layout of the second level is exactly the same as the ground level. The residence is surrounded by high walls that are lined with green tiles-adding an aesthetic touch to the entire compound.

Huizhou is populated with merchants. The richly ornamented residences of the wealthy merchants were also used for displaying the power and wealth of the owners. In fact, residences in Huizhou are well known for their wood, brick and stone carvings. In order to prevent fire from spreading into their own compounds, or vice versa, the people in Huizhou built high wall in their compounds for the purpose of blocking fire. From this practice, the art of decorating the walls is being derived. The undulating walls of the houses in Huizhou exemplify the uniqueness of the residences themselves.

source: Chinese Architecture, published by China International Press

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