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Yaodong ( cave dwelling), Loess Plateau in China’s north


Project Location: China

Figure 1: a large cave dwelling with several floors ( Source )
Figure 2: the special structure makes it cool in summer and warm in winter. It is a sustainable building. ( Source )
Figure 3: Traditional cave houses in Lingshi County, Province Shanxi, China. In the background, a part of the walls of the Chongningbu complex, which belongs to the Wang Family Grand Courtyard (王家大院). ( Source )
Figure 4: Traditional cave houses and barns, alongside Wang Family Grand Courtyard (王家大院) in Lingshi County, Province Shanxi, China. ( Source )
Figure 5: The cave dwellings preserve warmth well during winter ( Source )
Figure 6: The courtyard of a cave dwelling ( Source )
Figure 7: Courtyard of pit dwelling, Shaanxi Province ( Source )
Figure 8: The first type of cave dwellings are those carved out of the side of a cliff. Cliffside dwellings are often south-facing, and the facades are sometimes faced with bricks or stone. ( Source )
Figure 9: people still living in this type of dwelling today ( Source )
Figure 10: Interior of the cave dwelling ( Source )
Figure 11: section of a typical cave dwelling. The cook also provides heat for the bed. ( Source )
Figure 12: a bird-view of the cave dwellings ( Source )
Figure 13: the building is integrated with the earth. ( Source )


Primary Material(s):
Brick, Stone, Adobe Brick

Residential Structure

Related Website(s):

Significant Date(s):

Additional Information:
A yaodong (natively 窰 ) is a particular form of earth shelter dwelling common in the Loess Plateau in China's north. They are generally carved out of a hillside or excavated horizontally from a central "sunken courtyard".

The earth that surrounds the indoor space serves as an effective insulator, keeping the inside of the structure warm in cold seasons and cool in hot seasons. Consequently, very little heating is required in winter, and in summer, it is as cool as an air-conditioned room.

The history of yaodongs goes back centuries, and they continue to be used. In 2006, an estimated 40 million people in northern China lived in yaodongs.

The first yaodongs were underground dwellings that date back to the 2nd millennium BC, China's Bronze Age, and according to Chinese tradition, the Xia Dynasty. Chinese scholars generally believe that this type of habitat was developed mainly from the Han dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) on, along with a progressive improvement of construction techniques during the Sui (581 to 618) and Tang (618 to 907) dynasties. During the dynasties Ming (1368 to 1644) and Qing (1644 to 1912), the pace of construction reached its peak.

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