Built Heritage (Oct 2021)

Earthen–wooden hybrid houses built by the Dai in Dehong Prefecture, South China

  • Rawiwan Oranratmanee,
  • Pandin Ounchanum

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5, no. 1
pp. 1 – 12


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Abstract The Dai (or Tai) are an indigenous ethnic group distributed across the upper part of Southeast Asia and South China. Whereas the majority of the Dai living on the Southeast Asian mainland build wooden houses on stilts, Dai populations in South China, especially in Dehong Prefecture, are known for the distinctive architectural style of their hybrid earthen–wooden houses, which stems from their enduring social contact and cultural assimilation with Chinese settlers. This paper, which draws on comprehensive fieldwork conducted in Dai villages in Dehong Prefecture, explores the Dai’s hybrid earthen–wooden architecture. Specifically, it examines the development of forms, the relationship between settlement layouts and house plans, as well as building materials, structures and constructions characterising this architecture using data from qualitative surveys, architectural measurements and interviews. The hybrid architecture of the Dehong Dai demonstrates the fusion of two building cultures—earthen and wooden—that has shaped a vernacular architectural identity that is unique to this area. This paper also presents illustrative examples of earthen–wooden houses, thereby contributing to advancing knowledge about this eclectic, hybrid architecture that remains a gap in the academic literature.