Bamboo Houses of Dai Ethnic Group
Bamboo Houses in Green Trees
On the level grounds beside rivers and lakes in Xishuangbanna, Dai bamboo houses, exquisite and unique, are half concealed and half revealed in the green grapefruits, pawpaws, betel palms, and coconut palms.
Bamboo houses, as the name shows, are mainly made of bamboo. The supporting framework of a Dai bamboo house is usually made of dozens of big bamboos; and boards of the floor are laid two meters above the ground. The house is divided into the upper floor and the ground floor. There is no wall downstairs, where cattle, fowls and work tools are kept. People live upstairs. There are gaps in the bamboo walls wide enough to let in light and air, so usually no window is needed. At one end of the house is the stairs. Climbing up the stairs, you can see a corridor. On the front side is the balcony, where there is a water urn. People do washing, dry clothes and enjoy the coolness of the night on the balcony. The inner part is divided into a central room and a bedroom by a bamboo fence. The roof is like an “A,” covered with “Caopai”, which is woven with couch grass. Maybe because its shape resembles a huge upheld hat, there is a story in the local place: When Zhu Geliang came to Xishuangbanna, a youth named Yanken, went to ask him how to build a more convenient house for the Dai people. Zhu thought for a moment; then inserting a few chopsticks in the ground and put his own hat on them, he said: just build in this way.
A Bamboo house is called “Hen” in Dai. It is said that “Hen” is the shortened form of “Hongheng”, which means a phoenix spreading its wings. It is said that the inventor of the bamboo house, Payasangmudi, once intended to build a kind of both practicable and convenient house for the Dai people with the local bamboo, and tried a few times in vain. Then, the Heaven King, Payaying, transformed into a beautiful phoenix and flied in front of Payasangmudi. The phoenix instructed him with various body movements to build an ideal bamboo house, dampness-proof and beasts-proof, which fit especially the wet and hot climate in South Asia. Therefore, Payasangmudi named this kind of bamboo house as “Hongheng”. In order to remember Payasangmudi as the inventor, people changed “Hongheng” into “Hen Payasangmudi”, which means Payasangmudi’s house. Afterwards, housing styles experienced great changes, and people call various bamboo houses as “Hen”. Nowadays, most bamboo houses are changed into wooden ones. Tiles have taken place of “Caopai” on the roof. And there are glass windows in the wall. However, the construction style of traditional bamboo houses still remains.