Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 6 years 5 months ago

Information From Local Contacts:

A House in SiFangJie:

Mr T. and I visited another place which was actually a tailor shop. It had all these newspaper covering up the ceiling and the walls. When we asked about them. The man told us that it prevented the dust and the ash like things from falling down on them but it also protected and supported the wood as well. 

Mrs. Liu:

When visiting Mrs. Liu, she told us some things about the architecture as well.

When Mr. T and Nick asked about earthquakes and if houses were damaged or if it swayed, she told us that the houses all "locked" in together so it made the structure much more stronger and that it prevented them from falling apart. Apparently the "locking" was when the wooden frames were actually cut up to lock in with each other (kind of like those wooden puzzles).

From the Book:

If there is a tall yard wall (like the one at teh Linden Centre) it measn that there must be a grand luxuious house behind it.

There is also a type of gate that only officeres were permitted to use. It has a exquisite look and some rich families used it later onwards. 

If there is also a house with a large courtyard and strong corridor poles, it means that the house is a property of a better off family. 

Firgures appearing in houses usually include people, mountains and water, bird feathers, plants and flowers. 

A Bai house usually sits against the west and faces the east. This is because the people want to avoid being attacked by strong wind which blows from southwest and northwest. 

Tearing Down an Old Building:

When I was at a place where there was a house that they were tearing apart, we saw these pieces of wood that was originally from the house that was being broken down. We were able to see how exactly the wood pieces were carved out so they could be "locked" in with each other. A bit later, a woman passed by and we asked her what type of wood it was. She told us it was made out of pine trees. She also said that it would have to be quite old in order to be big enough to be used for the house. 

Hu Lijun:

There are usually three types of gates around Xizhou. It is called 三滴水 (san di shui), 一滴水 (yi di shui) and 门档(men dang). These types of gates are from the Qing Dynasty. Later on, he

三滴水: They call it this because when it rains, the water drops three times until it touches the ground. The water would drop to the first roof then the second part then hit the floor so in total it would drop three times. 

一滴水: The water from the rain only drops to the roof then hits the ground. 

门档:It would just be a doorway. He told me that this style is used in Beijing. This gate is not attached to the house and it has walls next to them.  

I asked this person how long it would probably take to make one gate and he replied saying that it would take a few weeks to build a simple gate but a few months if the person wanted to have carvings and decorations on it. He also told me that the wealthy families would have a lot of people working on this gate and that they would get paid for the amount of days they worked, not paid by the price of one gate or two. I also asked him if wealthy families used more of the 三滴水 gates than the 一滴水 gates and he told me that they did. He said that the wealthy families would use the 三滴水, middle class would use 一滴水, while the more poor would use 门档. He also told me that the designs on the gates are really up to the designer and the owner of the house but it consists of things that represent fortune, beauty and luck. 


Birds and Flowers:

Peony: wealth

Orchid: wealth (it is really famous in Xizhou and it is also quite expensive)

Magpie: happiness

Bat: luck (bian fu. The "fu" sounds like the "fu" for luck)

Information from 3-to-5's
Mr. Yang (the person who renovated YZR)- Recommended by Xiao Tang and Mr. T:

When Mr. T and I bumped into Mr. Yang, he told us some things about the architecture at that place.

When entering the house, there was another entrance/gateway leading to the inside of the house. This gate was made of marble which in chinese is 大理石 (Dalishi) which literally translates to Dali Stone. Although marble was called "Dali Stone" I had not seen a lot of it used in the other houses that I had seen before. When I asked Mr. Yang about this, he said that only the rich were able to afford it and use it which basically concluded that the house we visited first belonged to a wealthy family.

There were also a lot of parts that were broken and smashed at the house. Mr. T and I were curious about who was the onen responsible for the damage made on the houses. Mr. Yang replied that it happened from both side. The people during the cultural revolution also broke some thing down since they were ordered to break everything that seemed "ancient" and the people living there also broke some of their own property in order to protect themselves. 

There were also these carvings made on the buildings and the wood. When Mr. T asked about this, Mr. Yang told us that now, most people made them using machines but there still were some people that were able to make this here in Xizhou. He mentioned that there was a very small number of people that were able hand make it but there were more people who were able to do that in Dali. He also said that only the older people were able to actually hand make these carvings in the current present time. 

Staff at the Linden Centre:

I talked to another person at the Linden Centre and asked her about just basics about the gate. She told me as well that the type of gate was called 三滴水 and explained to me why this was called like this. She also told me that the designs on the gate was really up to the designer as well. 


Background Information From Phase 1:

The houses are beautifully constructed and decorated and are some of the best examples of traditional Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) architecture in China Bai touch of more decorations includes: colorful pictures gardens more use of marble decorations upturned eaves brighter colors. ornate gateways hexagonal honeycomb patterns spacious courtyards. They are carefully maintained balance between structural simplicity and elegant detail. 

( and

When I was in Lijiang I also learned that the roof of the houses are formed with an angle pointing down so when there is an earthquake, the roof would fall outwards from the house rather than into the actual structure of the house.

White is the mostly commonly used color on these buildings since "Bai" means white and a name that illustrates the esteem with which the Bai people value this color.  

Characterized by three wings and one main wall. The three wings, often two storied and constructed in wood, form a courtyard facing a large adorned wall.

The typical style is "sanfangyizhaobi" (三坊一照壁) and "sihewutainjing" (四合五天井)

Sanfangyizhaobi refers to the three houses and one main wall. The middle has a courtyard. 

The screen wall is built with brick and stone. The house is painted in white with black tile paintings depicting animals and other natural images. The detailing usually is made of clay sculpture, woodcarving, colored drawing, stone inscription, marble screen and dark brink. There is usually four chinese characters on the wall and often there are pictures surrounding it. 

Sihewutianjing is a house with a main courtyard and four smaller ones at the four corners of the major one.


Answers to Previous Questions:

How are houses actually structured?


They have a wooden frame and it is structured with bricks and stones. This wooden frame is carved out so it "fits" or "locks" together which makes it safer and stronger when there is an earthquake. This is basically big pillars of wood with the wall/cement on it. If there is an earthquake, the wall would fall apart but the wooden frames would still be up. 

Why do they build their structures this way?


It makes them safer and stronger when there are earthquakes. If the house is bigger and the gate is more grand, it would mean that the people who live there is a wealthy family. There are also special types of gates that indicates whether an official lives there or not. 


What is it made out of?


The houses are made out of wood, bricks/cement and rocks. Gates can be made out of marble, rock and wood. However only wealthy family could afford to use marble for their gates. 


Are there still people making these? 


There are people still making these kinds of houses however it would be factory/machine made. The parts would not be all hand made. Wood carvings in the houses can be hand made but there are very little people who are able to do this. These people are also quite old people that live in the village. 


Around what period of time were these structures made? And what is so different about it?


It was made during the Qing dynasty because and these are different from the ROC (民国) because during that time, they would use western style gates and South East Asian types of gates (since they go overseas for business). If their gate was different looking, it would indicate that they have seen more of the overseas life. 


What sort of symbols are commonly used?


Mountains and Erhai lake just as scenery, flowers and birds indicating beauty, and other things indicating fortune and luck. 


What colors are commonly used and why? 


White because they are called "bai" which means white. So the Bai people value this name and color. 


How do they maintain the beauty of the house and structures? 


They seem to not. They would renovate it and break it down. In the past, people would come to repaint paintings that had gotten erased (from the cutural revolution) but they leave everything to be.




I learned one thing fromg your project today.

大理石(대리석 in Korean) - We have been using this word so long without knowing why it is called 大理石. Stone from Dali.... Cool and so interesting.

Hey I'm Clara. I'm an 8th Grader in Shanghai American School Puxi. I am Korean though I've lived in Korea for four years, the US for two, Singapore for six and Shanghai for about a year and a half. I love challenges and trying new things. I so excited about being in Xizhou.