Ancient Residences in Shanxi and Shaanxi Provinces

Date of Submission: 28/03/2008
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
State Administration of Cultural Heritage
State, Province or Region:
Shanxi province and Shaanxi province
Coordinates: N35 50 E111 30; N31 35 - 35 33 40 E110 28 1 - 110 30 40
Ref.: 5322

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


1. Ancient Building Cluster in Dingcun Village

Dingcun sits with Mountain Cong in the east and Fen River in the west. Dingcun and Mountain Ba, which was written in the county annals of the ancient Taiping, face each other across the river. In the village, well-preserved civilian residential houses built in picturesque disorder during Ming and Qing dynasties are peaceful and beautiful. It is rare to see such elaborate, skilfully decorated and well-preserved houses that were built in such a large scale with in the north of our country. The discovery and unearth of the site of Dingcun is of great significance to provide the very important real materials for the research into the mid-period culture of the old Stone Age of our country and at the same time fill in the gaps in this period of Chinese history.

The residential houses that were built during Ming and Qing dynasties in Dingcun are with-in the stockade village built in the years of Chongzhen in Ming dynasty. There are 40 houses now. The earliest ones were built in 1593 and the latest ones in the period of the Republic of China. They have a history of more than 400 years. The distribution of the houses stretches from the northeast to the southwest and can be divided into four parts-the north yard, the middle yard, the south yard and the northwest yard. The main part in the north yard is buildings in Ming dynasty and the middle yard has buildings in early or mid-Qing dynasty. In the south yard, a lot of buildings were built in Daoguang and Xiangfen periods in Qing dynasty while the northwest yard has buildings built in Qianlong and Jiaqing periods. The private residential houses were built with a rational layout and imposing style. The houses are either independent on each other or link up. The styles of the buildings are different with one another. In addition to the 40 private residential houses, three temples built in different periods are preserved in Dingcun. One is Sanyi Temple built in the 22nd year of Zhizheng of Yuan Dynasty and the other two belong to the buildings of Ming dynasty and are well preserved.

Among the 40 private residential houses existing now, many of them are Siheyuan. Private houses of Ming dynasty arranged the gate at the southeast corner. These buildings are usually lower with over hanging gable roof and gentle tiles. The materials are bulky and the eaves and lintels are drawn with colours. The woodcarvings are fewer but simple and unsophisticated. The distribution of the whole buildings is in order and the courtyards are not only spacious and comfortable but artistic and pleasing to the eye. Buildings built in the early or mid periods of the Qin Dynasty adopted the shape of ‘日', the middle hall separates the front and back yards and the gate is designed on the axis. The yard is long and narrow and the small yard is deeper. Compared with the buildings in Ming dynasty, they are taller and the materials are used more carefully. The roofs are usually steep, many of which are flush gable roofs. The constructing of the middle hall is stressed and it can be used to go through from the front yard to the back yard. The north hall adopts the style of attic with two or three stories. The layouts of the private houses in the late Qing dynasty tend to be complex. The gate is designed more freely according to the local conditions.  The materials standard is clearly higher than before. The north hall has two spacious attics, with the porch post up to the eaves. The downstairs and upstairs are all decorated with beautiful lattice. The woodcarvings in this period become fewer. The wing-rooms of the private houses in Dingcun have three sections divided into two rooms.  Against the gable heated kang is built. All the wing-rooms are buildings like attic-the upstairs are used as a storeroom and the upstairs are used for living. There is a square mouth between the gable and the front wall corner and a hanging ladder is used by to go up or down the stairs. The hall is larger and the roof beam links up the main ridge, the short pillar and the fork to make it a triangle stable structure. The bottom of the short pillar is connected with the middle part of the main ridge. It is different from the structure of both in Ming dynasty when there are Heta in between and in Qing dynasty when there is camel back to sustain. One kind of the hall is high up to the roof and gives people a feeling of tall and splendour; the other kind is like an attic with the front threshold a dividing line and a layer of board divides the hall into two parts, the upper part is a storeroom. The entire roof is covered with tube-shaped tiles and the mouth of the eaves is designed for water dropping. And there is "Feizi" to sustain. The main ridge is designed on the roof and on both sides of the roof is hanging ridges. The halls in the private residential houses of Dingcun, which were built both in Ming & Qing dynasties, are never used for people to live. The main purpose is to provide places for worship or be used as a storeroom. When there are weddings and funerals, they are places to receive guests. It is absolute different from other places where people have the customs of living in the north house. It is one of the unique local features.

As far as the art of the building is concerned, the characteristics of the private residential houses in Dingcun are evident with flower-decorated eaves, the Queti, the brackets and the ridge beam in the hall, which are striven for perfection painstakingly. The coloured drawings on the buildings of Ming Dynasty use gray, white, blue and yellow as the basic colours to draw patterns like twining lotus, chrysanthemum, flowers, birds and the veined back of tortoise. The carvings of the brackets are such simple pictures as "sea horse and floating clouds (haimaliuyun)", "the water buffalo (which dreads the heat of summer) panting at the sight of the moon (mistaking it for the sun)","the magpie playing with the plum". The way of carving which is bold, unconstrained, primitive and crude is vivid, simple and skilful. During the early and mid-periods of Qing dynasty, all the decorations on the buildings are expressed by wood carvings which reached the detached level and the products are exquisitely carved and show forth among the ridge beams. The craftsmen create these new products such as "happiness, official salary and granting titles and territories to the nobles", "lute-playing, chess, calligraphy, and the painting", "fishermen, woodmen, farmers and scholars", "Three yang begins prosperity-the new year ushers in a renewal and a change of fortune", "the snipe and the clam grapple" and so on to reflect the ideas of the ancient Chinese Confucianism and lucky implications. Particularly, the No.1 yard built in the 54th year of Qianlong has the "Ningwu Strategic Pass", "Yuefei's mother tattoos", "Zhou ren presents his sister-in-law" carved on the board of the middle yard to reflect the contents of loyalty and filial piety. "Riding a bamboo stick as a toy horse", "flying kite", " Tiger dancing", "big head child", "Si maguang breaks the vat to save the drowning little child" are carved on the board of the corridor to show the contents of the folk entertainment. These woodcarvings are the representatives among the woodcarvings in the private residential houses in Dingcun and no other woodcarvings on the private buildings can match them. The stone art in Dingcun's private houses is also important. All the plinths, hammering blocks at the door and the feet stamping stones are deliberately decorated to reach the agreement of the practical use and the beauty of the art with rich contents and unique styles. The stone art in Ming dynasty is small and short, the carving is elaborate; while in Qing dynasty, it becomes bold and unstrained and big with the contents of "money and peach", "pine, bamboo, plum and orchid", " horse, deer", " monkey owns the money (monkey has the same pronunciation with many times)", "Spring arrives at the yard", "the cat springs on the picture of the butterfly", "the picture of nine deer", "five bats hold good fortune and long life (the pronunciation of bat is the same with happiness)".

2.  Ancient Building Cluster in Dangjiacun Village

There are plateaus at the south and north sides of the Dang village, 30-40 meters higher than the village, which can prevent the village from being attacked by the northwest wind in winter. The local-style dwelling houses were built on the calabash-shaped gully. Mishui River, a branch of the Yellow River runs around the south of the village. The village is called "Dust-Preventing Pearl". 2 kilometres east to the village is the Xi'an - Houma railway, and 2 kilometres west of the village is the No. 108 national highway, so the traffic is very convenient.

The ancient residents of Dang's Village are mainly composed of Dang's and Jia's clans. Dang's clan had fled here from famine from the Zhaoyi County of Shaanxi since the 2nd year of Zhishun period of Yuan Dynasty (1332). Around the 15th year of Qianlong period of Qing Dynasty (1750), Jia's clan went to Guotan Town, Tanghe County, Henan Province to be engaged in trade, and the business was flourishing. After going into business for about one hundred years, Dangs became the local tycoons. The large-scale construction of Dang's houses began at that time too. People called Dang's Village as "the village of rich men". Along with the residents' becoming rich, people began advocating culture and following social etiquette. There were Jinshis (doctorates), Jurens (successful candidates in the imperial examinations at the provincial level in the Ming and Qing dynasties) and Gongshengs (senior licentiate in feudal China) in the Ming and Qing Dynasties in the village. There are 6 old-style private schools in the village at the late stage of Qing Dynasty, and 44 Xiucais (title of scholars) in Ming and Qing Dynasty. Up till now, the culture and education there has been prosperous.

The Dang's Village is also called Dang's Gelao (mound). The construction of the ancient group of Dang's Villages is divided into 3 stages: Zhengtong to Jingtai period of Ming Dynasty (1436-1456), the 16th year of Chongzhen of Ming Dynasty to the 50th year of Kangxi of Qing Dynasty (1643-1711), and Qianlong to Xianfeng period of Qing Dynasty (1736-186).There are 123 local style Chinese courtyard dwelling houses and 18 public facilities preserved in the ancient group of Dang's Villages. The public facilities, such as the lanes, roads and sentry doors, etc, were built in an orderly manner. The main lane, the second-class lane, the lane at the ends and the flow direction of the waterway were defined according to the terrain and the ground features. In the first year of Xianfeng period of Qing Dynasty (1851), in order to guard against theft and refuge, the village people raised funds to purchase land, and built the fort making use of the situation on the plateau at the northeast of the village. The site of the ancient group of Dang's Villages was selected in the gully with shelter and countenance surrounded by high and dry plateaus. It conforms to the traditional Chinese geo-mantic omen concept of "gathering water and hiding from wind".

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

1.  Ancient Building Cluster in Dingcun Village

The remained 40 ancient houses of Dingcun were constructed in Ming and Qing Dynasty, except Sanyi Temple in Yuan Dynasty (built in the 22nd year of Zhizheng). According to the record in Ding family Book, the first father might come into Dingcun in the early years of Ming Dynasty, and began to build houses, which were expanded year by year, then "Dingcun" got its name.

In 1961, the People's Government of Shanxi Province announced that Dingcun local inhabitants dwellings in Ming and Qing Dynasty was the heritage site under provincial protection. In 1988 the state council announced that it was under the national protection. Dingcun ancient houses are in the same place with the world famous Dingcun Old Stone Age. They are constricting pleasingly with each other and fascinating. In 1985 Dingcun ancient houses museum was founded and was responsible for organizing the villagers in Dingcun to protect the ancient houses. With the caring and supporting of higher administrative department, on the 27th of December in 1989, the police office of Dingcun ancient houses museum was founded, aiming to strengthen the protection of Dingcun ruins, and ensure the safety of world ruins.

2. Ancient Building Cluster in Dangjiacun Village

The Dang's Village authentically keeps the style and features of the north villages of Chi-na in Ming and Qing Dynasty. The historical appearance and design of most of the local-style dwelling houses, roads and other facilities, the real material and entity, the model of function, the authentic technological making, and the irremovable direction and position embody the original cultural background authentically.

There are various life facilities and public facilities for residence, culture, education and defence, and public roads and drainages in Dangjiacun Village as an independent ancient vil-lage, which are provided with all the necessary factors of general value for the ancient local-style dwelling houses, and have not been negatively influenced by the modern life up to now. The life style and features of the ancient local-style dwelling houses have been preserved, and the complete cultural heritage has the irreplaceability.

Comparison with other similar properties

Different features and styles are showed in different periods of Chinese ancient building.

Taking Qiao Family Mansion, Wang Family Mansion such business houses in the middle of Shanxi province as example, comparing with Ancient Building Cluster in Dingcun Village and Dangjiacun Village, their building styles are quite different from the overall arrangement, decorative characteristics, and other aspects.

The business houses in the middle of Shanxi are on a grand scale, in an imposing manner, and puffed up with self-importance, which shows its owners show off their wealth and look down upon the poor.