A dugout - Yaodong in China

News | 162 days ago and 11 hours | Zukic
For over four thousand years, on the loess plateau in northern China, people lived in caves known as yaodong, which means "a home cave" in Chinese. Some of these caves were carved in the hillside, others were dug out vertically, surrounded by a dugout courtyard.
A dugout - Yaodong in China
 
The loess plateau in the valley of the Wei River in Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces, was extremely important in Chinese history, because it was one of the earliest cradles of Chinese civilization. The plateau was created by the deposition of little soil particles carried by windstorms for millions of years. As a result, the local soil is very thin and loamy, as well as very fertile and easy to dig in, what justifies living in these caves for so many years.


A dugout - Yaodong in China
A drone view of a residential complex of caves in the Shanzhou District in Sanmenxia, Henan province of China. Photo from January 21, 2018.
 
The first yaodong caves were made in times of the Chinese Xia dynasty around 4,000 years ago, although only the Han dynasty (from 206 BC to 220 AD) started to use them more often. Yaodong was the most popular during the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644) and Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912). It's estimated that about 40 million people live in such caves up to today.


A dugout - Yaodong in China
 
The most common type of yaodong are the ones that were dug in the slopes of the plateau. They're located on the outskirts of the loess plateau. Inside the plateau, without hills and ravines, farmers dig out a square hole in the ground, and then dig out flats horizontally on four walls, creating a central, sunken courtyard. Entrance to these houses is usually made through a ramp or an underground corridor.


A dugout - Yaodong in China

 
These houses are very pleasant to live in - they're cool in summer and warm in winter. Thanks to that, there's even the secondary market for these houses. A house equipped with modern amenities such as running water and electricity, a simple three-room cave with attached bathroom - with a total area of just 750 square feet (69.6 square meters) - can cost up to $46,000 on the secondary market. Renting a simple one-room cave costs 30 USD per month.


A dugout - Yaodong in China


A dugout - Yaodong in China



A dugout - Yaodong in China


A dugout - Yaodong in China


A dugout - Yaodong in China


A dugout - Yaodong in China


A dugout - Yaodong in China