Maonan Architecture

       Maonan people pay more attention to their houses than to their food. Their houses are built with rock, earth, bricks and timber. The foundation and the lower parts of the walls are built with rocks, which can be either natural rocks or shaped rocks. Wealthy families have their houses built with bricks and shaped rocks. The upper parts of the walls are built with earth or bricks. Again, affluent families have the walls built with bricks. The front walls are often made of wooden planks. The setting of the house conforms to the surrounding topography. Some houses are built according to the advice of the geomancers (i.e. the Fong-Sui masters). Structural details of the house are said to be decided according to the birthday of the owner of the house. Traditionally, the important stages in the construction must be carefully planned so that they fall on the dates that are regarded as auspicious. These stages include the felling of the first log, digging the first shovel of earth, laying the first brick, lifting the main pillars, fitting the front door, laying the first tile, setting up the shrine, moving in, etc. On the day of raising the main pillars, religious masters are invited to hold a ritual and a banquet is to be served. The villagers will come to help with the work and stay for dinner.
       A typical Maonan house has two storeys. The upper floor is for people and the lower ground floor for livestock. This is because it would be too damp for people to live on the lower floor. In such a hilly area, space is very limited and a separate cowshed or stable would take up too much valuable farmland. A cowshed under the living quarters also functions as a safe house against theft and at the same time is convenient for feeding the cattle.
       The truss structure of a typical Maonan house is not built in the shape of a triangle as it is often found in the houses in the Han areas. Rather, they consist of a number of crosses, that is, the beams intersect in right angles.


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