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Symbolism in the Construction of the Dai Traditional House

Gao, Yun (1995) Symbolism in the Construction of the Dai Traditional House. Edinburgh Architecture Research, 22. pp. 121-131. ISSN 0140-5039

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The Dai, Chinese people of Dai ethnic origin, live in integrated communities in the Yunnan Province of China. In China, many other stilt houses were transformed and built on the ground, but Dai house is still one of the types of stilt-bamboo house that exist until now in Southeast Asia.

For the Dai in South China, the ritual of building a new house confirms the relationships between the household and nature, the supernatural, and the Dai society. This paper will discuss three distinctive aspects of the construction ritual. First, by deciding the auspicious site of the house, the ritual confirms the picture of the universe in terms of Dai understanding of space, time, and matter. The second aspects relate to two levels of the relationships between the householder and the surrounding environment. On the one hand, the involvement of various deities in the ritual shows that the householder is treating the universe as an ordered system. One the other hand, the erection of the main post of the house connects the householder with his ancestral spirit, which is believed to occupy the main post and own the first house. Thirdly, the process of the construction ceremonies helps to create the harmony between the human being and the cosmos. Because the attitude of the Dai culture towards the cosmos, like those of Han Chinese and Indian, lies in the harmony between our cosmos and macrocosmos as a whole, the analogy between the house, the village, the muang (Dai traditional state), the outposts of civilization and even nature is important for understanding the constructional process. The building of a house supports a man’s potential as a microcosm.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Schools: School of Art, Design and Architecture
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Yun Gao
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2010 14:30
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2015 21:21


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