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Home Tibet Themes Architecture

Depending on the availability of the materials, the Tibetan houses are built with more woods, for those living near forest, or more stones, for those living near mountains. Usually, the walls are one meter thick and built with stones. The roof is built with scores tree trunks, and then covered with a thick layer of clay. When it is finished, the roof is flat.

In the valley area, the whole structure is like a castle with small windows as big as gun holes. No doubt, this is for defense purpose. In the city, there are big windows facing south to let sun light in. The houses are one or two, three, four story high. For one flat house, sometimes a guarding wall is built around to keep the animal in and outsiders out.

For a three story high house, the lowest level is a barn for animals or a storage place. The second story is the living quarter for human beings. The third story is the worshiping hall or sometimes the grain bin. The stairs are outside the house and usually made of single tree trunk from roof to roof. Once the ladders are withdrawn, the higher levels become inaccessible.

Inside the living quarter, there is kitchen, living rooms. There are fireplaces and stoves in the kitchen. The common fuels are wood and dung. The furniture is painted in bright colours. The lavatory is usually at the highest part of the house as an extension. This way, the house is clear of the smell.

Tibetan Diaofang: Stone Chamber
Diaofang (Stone Chamber) is the most popular kind of dwellings in Tibet. According to The History of Later Han Dynasty, this stone and earth dwellings existed before 111 AD. The height of the dwellings varies from two to three stories. Built mostly of stone and earth, they look like Diaolou (blockhouse), and hence got the name of Diaofang. The origin of its name can be traced back to 1736 in Emperor Qianglong's reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

On the mountainous Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, it would be difficult to construct a building if it takes too much space. Therefore, the stone chambers are usually designed in a very compact way with multiple stories. Tibetan houses also possess skylights and ventilation spots. While the house is very delicately and meaningfully decorated inside, it reveals a powerful and robust style outside. Under the intense Tableland sunshine, Diaofang appears exceptionally dazzling.

Diaofang are generally of two or three stories: The first floor is often used for livestock and poultry, and the second is retained as bedrooms, living rooms, kitchen and storehouse. Some have a third floor for the family sutra hall and the balcony.

A good combination of wood and stonewalls enriches the shape. This does not only meet the functional purpose, but also gives prominence to artistic effect, making the style different from any other folk residence. The construction is solid enough to resist earthquakes and well designed to keep the inside warm.

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