Lijing Old Town and Naxi Local Style Dwelling Houses
March 18, 2009
“Lijing Old Town and Naxi Local Style Dwelling Houses”, 離江古城輿納西民居 Edited by Zhu Liang-Wen 朱良文
Lijiang Naxi local dwellings have four basic layouts, these are:
1) 三坊一照璧 “San Fang Yi Zhao Bi” or a house “three buildings and one screen wall”, which has one main building with two side wings plus a screen wall opposite the main block, together they formed a u-shape San He Yuan, or a three sided enclosed courtyard with the fourth side being a screen wall (1/Diag 1)
2) 四合五天井 “Si He Wu Tian Jiang” or a “four sided courtyard house with five sky-wells” , which has a main building at the back with two side wings and another block opposite the main building forming a four-sided courtyard house. Apart from the large central sky-well (the courtyard) there are four smaller corner sky-wells for ventilation called “Lou Jiao” 漏角 or “leaking corner” (2/Diag 1)
3) 前後院 “Qian Hou Yuan” or a house with a “front and back courtyard”, which uses the central axis measured off the main building at the back of the house to layout out two courtyards. The main courtyard is in the form of “four sides with five sky-wells” and the front garden is in the form of “three buildings with one screen wall”. The room that separated the main and secondary courtyards is called a “Hua Ting” 花廳 or a “flower lounge” (3/Diag 1).
4) 一進兩院 “Yi Jin Liang Yuan” or a “one entry with two courtyards” house which is very similar to the “front and back courtyards” house mentioned previously, with the exception that the main building is now in the central block that separates the two courtyards. (4/Diag 1). Diagram 1 is shown below:
The Yu Family Garden 余家花園 dwelling we visited in our last China Feng Shui study tour in Lijiang is a classic “front and back courtyards” layout, with the larger courtyard forming the heart of the arrangement.
One approaches the house and the main courtyard not through the street, but through a side gate and a passageway along one side of the house. At the end of the passageway is a blank wall and one has to turn 180 degrees to see the main door, which leads to the main courtyard of the house. When the door opens, one again faces another screen wall and the main courtyard is not visible until one turns left to see the garden fully with the main building across the courtyard.
The Yu Residence was built in 1925 with the main building facing east and all the wings are in two storeys. (Diagrams below showed Ground Floor and Upper Floor Plans and an Isometric view of the house):
At a first glance, the directionality of this house is not clear and that is because the front courtyard in the form of a “three buildings with a screen wall” layout faces the tall boundary wall of the Mufu 木府 (Mu’s Mansion) next door not able to see the open space beyond and the screen wall has not lost its function. This is because when the building was first built the Mufu was in a state of dilapidation and the present boundary wall was missing, giving the required Ming Tang at the front, which was the garden of the Mu’s Mansion.
All in all, there are four special features common to Lijiang Naxi local dwellings, these are:
1) Use a large sky-well in the form of a courtyard as the centre/heart to organize the various components of a house, no matter what type of layout is used. This light-well has either 3 or 4 sides covered with rooms laid out along a central axis that faces either the east or the south. A screen wall or a lower building opposite the main sitting is often used to reinforce this axial layout.
2) The main building or sitting is often two storeys high with the sides and opposite wing in either one or two storeys.
3) Each house has a generous amount of covered balcony or outdoor terrace and walkway for protected family activities like eating, meeting guests, rest and exercise.
4) The corners of the house are often left open to facilitate light and ventilation. Sometimes the corners are used for entry, kitchen or storage so these spaces are not wasted.