The aim of this book is to demonstrate how Dai vernacular architecture in Southwest China developed within the context of an integrated traditional cultural system, despite the absorption of neighbouring cultural influences from South-East Asia and the Han culture, and thereby contribute to an improved understanding of vernacular architecture. In using this particular case, the book proposed three important points about vernacular architecture in China.
First, vernacular architecture in these pre-industrial societies cannot be reduced to static, timeless objects, but is varied and has been both cumulative and changing over time. This point addresses the more basic issue of the preservation of traditions within the contemporary world. Second, the cultural and material constraints in pre-industrial societies must be understood in terms of the cultural logic of these societies, and not interpreted according to ideas which emerged from entirely different kinds of society. Thirdly, specific cultural conceptions and symbolization affecting local architecture are extraordinarily diverse and complex in various areas in China. Therefore, simple and undifferentiated models of “Chinese vernacular architecture” are not adequate to describe the vernacular architecture of these specific regions.
In this book, four related sections form the primary discussion of the Dai house. The first addresses Dai religious cosmology, which is a mixture of largely Theravada Buddhism and “animism”. By examining concepts of time, space and classification of spirits in the Dai cosmology, this part reveals how a traditional Dai house is constructed as part of an idealised order. In the second part, historical influences are taken into account to show how Dai houses in Xishuangbanna and Dehong, sharing identical social and climatic backgrounds, finally evolved into two different forms. The third part deals with the Dai social categorisation which was largely reflected in the spatial arrangements of the houses. The social categorisation considered in this section includes both asymmetrical relationships within the household within a house, and the hierarchical relationship between the lower domestic unit, the village, and the higher level, the state. The final part considers the effects of modernisation on Dai houses. This section demonstrates the tension between respect for local customs and calls for the abandonment of “old and backward ways” reflected in the Dai houses. At the same time, it is argued that the contemporary Dai house shares more common features in its spatial arrangement and structural system with Han vernacular houses than the houses of other Tai groups in South-East Asia do.
The framework and conceptual tools for the analysis of the house in the book derive from many anthropologists and architects. One contribution of this work may be to complement studies of the relationship between houses and societies in South-East Asia.
|Translated title of the contribution||Architecture of Dai Nationality in Yunnan, China|
|Place of Publication||Beijing|
|Number of pages||183|
|ISBN (Print)||9787301065006, 7301065000|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Aug 2003|