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China's last cave dwellers.
November 26, 2007 12:13 PM   Subscribe

China's last cave dwellers.
posted by Soup (27 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome post - I knew about the "cave" dwellings in central China, but had never heard of anything like this before. I really need to visit that part of the country next time I go to China.
posted by pravit at 12:17 PM on November 26, 2007


Everything must come up the path...

How about food?

...food...

OK, but what about concrete?

...concrete...

But sure washing machines can be teleported there!

...and even washing machines.

WHA??
posted by DU at 12:19 PM on November 26, 2007 [5 favorites]


Great photos.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:27 PM on November 26, 2007


I've visited some of the dug-out type homes up in the north-west, but nothing this spectacular. I wouldn't be surprised in the location isn't all that old; some of the villages we used to work with turned out to have only been that far up in the mountains for a couple of generations, forced up by pressure on the land below.
Must say a couple of points also pushed my buttons on the cack-handed policies for dealing with ethnic minorities here, but as I really don't know the specifics of the case or much about the Miao in general (other than bits from Shen Congwen's writings, really), I'll save my frothings for a different post.
posted by Abiezer at 12:42 PM on November 26, 2007


Decent cell phone reception?
posted by Postroad at 12:49 PM on November 26, 2007


Fantastic photos. I'm always fascinated by buildings that use the surrounding landscape.
posted by cmyk at 12:49 PM on November 26, 2007


Decent cell phone reception?

Yeah, I noticed that too. That is more than you can say about my house.
posted by TedW at 12:56 PM on November 26, 2007


Wow. I've always loved the idea of living in a cave. It never even occurred to me that there could be an entire village doing that. These pictures are awesome.
posted by primalux at 12:59 PM on November 26, 2007


It's nice to see people living in housing that not only acknowledges but makes use of the terrain. Here in America, the mountain over the cave would be bulldozed flat, shoddy identical houses on cul-de-sacs would be built, there'd have to be ugly drainage pits so the whole place doesn't flood all the time what with the natural water flows being destroyed, and then they'd plant a couple crappy trees held up by guy wires and call it "Oak Crossings."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:19 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Amazing pictures—thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 1:19 PM on November 26, 2007


Here in America, the mountain over the cave would be bulldozed flat, ...

Federal Cave protection Act (applies to caves on federal land)
Illinois Cave Protection Act
Pennsylvania Cave Protection Act
Virginia Cave Protection Law
Maine Cave Protection Act

etc.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:45 PM on November 26, 2007


It's nice to see people living in housing that not only acknowledges but makes use of the terrain.

Actually I was just thinking the opposite. The houses don't need roofs, yet their building plans assume there's going to be one anyway, so they're left with bare rafters. Of course, standard plans are cheaper and the villagers haven't lived there for very long. I wonder what the houses would look like if they'd been there for centuries.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:48 PM on November 26, 2007


OK, maybe we don't tend towards bulldozing actual caves, but everywhere else the standard construction technique does seem to me to include bulldozing the land flat.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:52 PM on November 26, 2007


Maybe they (the Miao people) should have cauldrons and pointy hats. No one would mess with them then.
posted by Mister_A at 2:03 PM on November 26, 2007


then they'd plant a couple crappy trees held up by guy wires and call it "Oak Crossings."

Nah, they'd probably name it after the mountain they destroyed; that's how most of that crap gets named. Shopping malls tend to be the most ironic. ("Pine Bluff Mall," "Buckland Hills Mall," pick your local favorite.) It's as though there's an implied 'Formerly' in front of the name.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:06 PM on November 26, 2007


Actually I was just thinking the opposite. The houses don't need roofs, yet their building plans assume there's going to be one anyway, so they're left with bare rafters.

This was interesting to me as well. Why even go to the trouble of transporting the material for the rafters in that case? I wonder if they use them to support a temporary covering to keep heat in during the winter, and then take it off in the summer.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:28 PM on November 26, 2007


TheOnlyCoolTim writes "everywhere else the standard construction technique does seem to me to include bulldozing the land flat."

Really? I come from Houston, where everything is already totally flat, but my big surprise in travels up north are that there are houses with a front door on the first floor, and a back door on the second floor, because they're built on a hill.
posted by Bugbread at 2:29 PM on November 26, 2007


oneirodynia writes "This was interesting to me as well. Why even go to the trouble of transporting the material for the rafters in that case?"

One of the commenters in the first thread posits that they're using state-provided assembly kits.
posted by Bugbread at 2:30 PM on November 26, 2007


I went up to a troglodyte village in Hebei province near the Inner Mongolian border. They were rather cramped and smelled of goat, but otherwise fairly homey. The owners spent the winter months cooped up with the livestock on their stove/beds. Cozy.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2007


I wonder if they use them to support a temporary covering to keep heat in during the winter, and then take it off in the summer.

Caves don't have winters and summers. The weather underground is always the same (no not the Weather Underground)
posted by Pollomacho at 2:45 PM on November 26, 2007


Really? I come from Houston, where everything is already totally flat, but my big surprise in travels up north are that there are houses with a front door on the first floor, and a back door on the second floor, because they're built on a hill.

They were probably old.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:01 PM on November 26, 2007



Really? I come from Houston, where everything is already totally flat, but my big surprise in travels up north are that there are houses with a front door on the first floor, and a back door on the second floor, because they're built on a hill.

They were probably old.


I don't know about that - my parents have always made a point of having a "walk-out basement," so I've always lived in the opposite kind of situation: door on the first-floor in the front, another door in the basement in the back.
posted by dd42 at 3:39 PM on November 26, 2007


Pollo's right, generally speaking. Cave temperatures don't vary much from the mean temperature of the surface they're under. That particular cave chamber may be an exception, because it's got such a large entrance. Some caves 'breathe' in & out with variations in the outside barometric pressure. If a blast of cold outside air gets pushed into the cave, they might have to take some measures to stay warm.

In the summer, condensation on the surfaces inside the cave would make it pretty damp. That's a big reason people don't usually live in caves today - things get moldy.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:41 PM on November 26, 2007


Caves don't have winters and summers.

Yeah, if you're pretty far in or underground- but this cave has a huge entrance, and this village is not tucked deep inside.

On preview: what Kirth Gerson said.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:15 PM on November 26, 2007


Some caves also act as cold-air reservoirs. If it's sealed at the bottom, and mostly vertical, such a cave can have ice in it well into summer, even in temperate places like New York State and New England.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:37 PM on November 26, 2007


Lost in awe of the progress of China's cities

I liked this little banner ad on the front page of the China Daily...Hu Jintao and CPC Mission. China's economic engine will hit the green road, though it will continue to run. It's slightly amusing that Newspeak won't actually be Ingsoc, but Engrish instead.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:38 PM on November 26, 2007


As far as I know the Miao are the same people as the Hmong. Hmong in Vietnam are called Mèo as a term of derision, and I think it's only in China that what's basically a derogatory term has stuck.

IIRC (paging Abiezer) Miao originally means something like "grass people" or "dirt people." In Kinh language Mèo means "cat" so perhaps slightly better.

There are supposed to be 6-8 million Hmong in Southwest China - these are the ones who didn't migrate as far as Vietnam and Laos while fleeing the Han Chinese, two of whose armies they had previously decimated before being tricked by a third.

Looking at the photographs in the links the facial features look very similar to Hmong in Vietnam, but I was surprised and sad to see noone wearing tribal costume. I know that the Hmong of China still produce their heavily-embroidered, brightly-colored skirts and belts, because the Hmong of Sapa, Vietnam purchase them and incorporate them into wall hangings to sell to tourists.

Vietnam Hmong and Lao Hmong still wear their cool tribal dress, and they have been known to live in caves, too. My wife's grandmother told of the time when the Chinese Army invaded Northern Vietnam (1979) and the whole village went up the mountain and hid out in caves for a couple of weeks.

That's neither here not there, but I imagine these guys will be very hard to budge from their caves. They're a stubborn lot and like to be left alone.
posted by grubby at 6:54 AM on November 27, 2007


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