Journal of Building Construction and Planning Research, 2013, 1, 131-140
Published Online December 2013 (
Open Access JBCPR
Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia
People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the Peng
Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China
Kui Zhao1*, William L. Tilson2, Dan Zhu3
1School of Architecture & Urban Planning, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China; 2School of Architecture,
University of Florida, Gainesville, USA; 3Urban and Regional Planning, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA.
*Corresponding author:
Received October 7th, 2013; revised November 28th, 2013; accepted December 8th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Kui Zhao et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of
the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property
Kui Zhao et al. All Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
This paper describes and analyzes the stilted building s of the Tujia people (an ethnic group living in mainland Chin a), a
distinctive building style un ique to them, from the perspectives of site selection, spatial layout, construction techn iques,
and cultural inheritance. The cluster of stilted buildings (Diaojiao Lou in Mandarin Pinyin) in the Pengjia Village
(meaning most of the villagers share the surname of Peng) is p resented as a case stud y in this paper. The p aper makes a
case for their preservation as authentic carriers of the Tujia people’s cultural history, which is quickly disappearing due
to development pressures. Three preservation strategies are discussed to meet this preservation go al. The first is to pro-
vide a detail analysis of the construction language to guarantee authenticity in th e documentation, preserv ation and res-
toration processes of the stilted build ings. The second is to keep alive the exp ert knowledge and skill of traditio nal arti-
sans by involving them in the construction of new structures using diaojiaolou techniques. The third strategy is to en-
courage local people to “dress-up” discordant buildings constructed mid to late 20th century with well-mannered fa-
cades using traditional details such as suspension columns, shuaqi, and six-panel and bang doors. Taking as a whole,
these strategies are presented to help local residents, preservation experts, developers and policy makers sustain the ir-
replaceable cultural heritage and economic independence of the Tujia people.
Keywords: Tujia People; Stilted Bu ildings; Ancient Architecture Surveying; Traditional Structural Features;
Traditional Spatial Features
1. Introduction
Stilted buildings are unique to the Tujia people living in
the mountainous region of western China, including
Hubei Province, Chongqing municipality, Hunan Prov-
ince, and Guizhou Province. They are typical architec-
tural structures carefully adapted to the local ecology,
environment, and geography, characterized by steep
mountains and wood-covered topography, a moist and
rainy climate, extremely hot summers, and severe winters
[1,2]. The stilted buildings clearly represent the folk cus-
toms, and the artistic, cultural, and aesthetic preferences
of the Tujia.
The stilted buildings in the Peng Family Village
(Pengjia Village) in the mountains in Xuan ’en County in
the west of Hubei Province are the most typical repre-
sentatives of such build ings [3]. The v illag e is not easy to
reach, and they are preserved in perfect condition due to
their remote location. During the summer holiday of
2012, a team from Huazhong University of Science and
Technology (HUST) surveyed the cluster of ancient
stilted buildings hidden in the remote mountains in order
to reveal the mystery of the Tujia Village.
2. Site Selection
The site selection of Pengjia Village represents the most
intact cultural and b uilding practices of all Tujia v illages.
There are more than 200 villag ers in th e 45 hou seho ld s in
Pengjia Village [4]. Most of the villagers emigrated fro m
Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China
Hunan to Hubei Province by following the Youshui
River, the most important river west of Hunan and Hubei
Province. Most of the Tujia people live along the You-
shui River, which they refer to as their “mother river” [5]
At the end of the Qing Dynasty and during the 18th to
the 20th centuries, the river was employed as the most
important channel to transport salt from Sichuan Prov-
ince to Hubei and Hunan Province [1]. Today, many eld-
erly people still remember their experience of shipping
salt to Pengjia Village. In the 200-year period when
transporting salt was a major enterprise, there have been
a few waves of immigration, which resulted from the
growing population in the region. The immigrants main-
tained a primitive and self-sufficient way of life through
farming and weaving; they lived in a closed region with
little exchange and communication with the outside
world aside from salt transport.
Along the banks of the Youshui River are more than a
dozen Tujia villages such as the Wang Family Village,
Zeng Family Village, Luo Family Village, Wu Family
Village, and Baiguoba Village. The salt shipping and
production are not only the pillar industry of the Tujia
people, but also result in the popularity of the stilted
buildings in this region.
Most importantly, the Peng Family Village has fos-
tered the most beautiful and well preserved stilted build-
ings of the Tujia. The village lies on the south of the
so-called Lotus Seat of the Goddess of Mercy (Kwan-
Yin) at the foot of Kwan Yin Mountain. On the west of
the village is a deep and long stream, over which there is
a century-old wind-rain bridge (a local style of bridge
that has a small structure built on the bridge to avoid
wind and rain). The clean and transparent Longtan River
(one of the tributaries of the Youshui River) flows
through the village in its front section. On the Longtan
River is a 40-meter-long and 0.8-meter-wide wood-
board-paved cable bridge connecting the village to the
outside world. Behind the village are steep hills and
mountains covered by dense bamboo forests. Walking
downstream along the Longtan River, you will witness
the Lion Rock, Shuihong Temple and another village
called Wangjia Village. The Pengjia Village and Wangjia
Village both emigrated fro m Hunan province (Figures 1-
Viewed from afar, one is easily overwhelmed by the
artistic glamour of the exquisite cluster of stilted build-
ings of the Peng Family village. Over nine buildings on
piles stand on the front and rear sections of the village,
which feature cornices, rake angles and traditional Chi-
nese exterior decorations. There are also another dozen
pillar-supported dwellings at the end of the stilted build-
ings closest to the mountain. The space in the pillars is
Figure 1. Distant view of the cluster of stilted buildings pic-
ture by Kui Zhao, 2013.
Figure 2. Site plan of Peng Family Village picture by Kui
Zhao, 2012.
used as a passageway, warehouse, or stables and pens for
cows and pigs. Most of the stairways and courtyards in
the village are paved with precisely cut and well-main-
tained local slate. The stilted buildings and space in the
courtyards are quite well-ventilated without the odors of
the adjacent stables [6,7]. Even in summer, they provide
a cool and dry environment, which is perfect for the
moist and hot summer climate in western Hubei Prov-
Open Access JBCPR
Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China 133
Figure 3. Stilted buildings of Peng Family Village drawing
by Kui Zhao, 2012.
The Peng Family Village was built in front of the
mountain, close to the water. The streams flowing on its
sides form the borders of village. With the square shape,
the village is the typ ical site selection of the Tuj ia people
3. Structural Features of Stilted Buildings
The stilted building is a kind of structure of through type
timber frame that adapts to the topography in the moun-
tain areas. Since there is an empty space in the lower
level or slope of the hillside, the space is supported by
many wooden columns that form the corridors under the
huge roof and overhang balcony. The outmost columns
are slender woods that are suspended from the roof and
do not reach the ground. It seems that all the buildings
are suspended by slender wood, which is the reason why
they are called stilted buildings. Though different from
the ordinary pillar-supported buildings, the stilted build-
ings can still be labeled as special pillar-supported ones.
We will explain the structural differences b y taking as an
example, the 3-dimensional anatomy model of a stilted
building with the quasi-pavilio n ( Figure 4).
Figure 4. Construction process analysis computer modeling
by Kui Zhao, 2007.
Open Access JBCPR
Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China
This stilted building is shaped like the letter L. It has
the typical typology composed of one principal house
and one wing. The foundation of the wing is lower than
that of the principal house, and the lower level of the
wing is suspended to form the quasi-pavilion. Some pe-
ripheral columns supporting the quasi-pavilion are not
rooted on the ground. These columns are called step-
supporting columns or suspension columns, whose
weight is supported by the beams among the peripheral
columns sitting on the floor or by the extrusions among
the side columns [6,7 ]. The beams in the periphery of the
quasi-pavilion are paved with wood boards to form the
suspended corridor, at the end of which are the sus-
pended short columns as the support of the corridor rail-
ing. These supports are called “Shuaqi”. “Shuaqi” not
only act as a support function, but also play an important
role in decoration. The “Shuaqi” and the head of the
suspension peripheral columns are shaped like balls or
pumpkins, known as “head of Shuaqi” or “golden melon”
by the local people. Because of their adjacency proximity
to persons’ viewport, the “golden melon” is one of the
most important structural components of the decorations
of Tujia buildings. The exterior sections of the square
beam beyond the peripheral columns are called the
“overhanging beams”, which support the cornices. Be-
cause the cornice in the stilted buildings is often quite
large, the supporting beams usually have two layers,
forming the double-beams structure. The upper beam of
smaller size is called the secondary beam, with the lower
beam supporting the majority of the weight; thus it is
called the primary overhanging beam. The primary beam
often uses the naturally-bending trunk of large trees for
the sake of weight holding. Sometimes the primary beam
is shaped like a broadsword or a horse head. Thus, it is
often called the “broadsword beam” or “horse head
beam” [8]. The size and bending of the primary and sec-
ondary beams are significant for the gradient of the roof
and design of the cornice (Figure 5).
Some Tujia buildings have transformed the dou-
ble-beam structure into the “short-pillar structure” by
adding a “short-pillar” on the overhanging beam, which
the local people call a “stool pillar” [10]. On the ends of
stool pillars are purlins that support the weight of the
cornices. The primary overhanging beams go through the
short-pillar and transmit part of the weight to the secon-
dary small beams. Thus, the double beams and the short
pillars collaborate to form a “stool pillar” to take more
weight than the double beams do, making the force more
rationally arranged. There are many other kinds of tec-
tonic evolutions based on “double beams” and “stool
pillar”, such as “oblique beam” and “double pillar” [9,
10]. These designs have made the structure complex. Just
like the “heads of Shuaqi”, the ends of the “stool pillars”
Figure 5. Façade map of the stilted building drawing by Kui
Zhao, 2013.
are shaped in different designs and become the important
decorations in Tujia buildings (Figures 6 and 7).
The quasi-pavilion, suspension peripheral columns,
double-beams, stool-pillars, Shuaqi, handing columns,
heads of Shuaqi and ends of hanging columns have be-
come the most evident symbo ls of stilted building s of the
Tujia. The most distinctive scene of the stilted buildings
in Pengjia Village is the ro w of quasi-pavilions along th e
foot of the mountain, presenting the most attractive and
unique features of these buildings. Additionally, the cor-
nice on the roof of the quasi-pavilions, catering to the
elevation and light quality of the buildings, extrudes up-
ward on the four corners and seems to be flying. These
designs have made the façade highly animated and are
typical of the Tujia buildings.
4. Details in the Buildings
4.1. Windows and Doors
The windows and doors in the stilted b u ildings in Pengjia
Village are one of their most attractive features as serve
as a tangible symbol of the Tujia people’s wisdom and
diligence in craft [10]. Though they are not as sophisti-
cated and dignified as the windows and doors of the
houses in Anhui Province, they are still known for their
ancient, profound and diversified style, presenting the
most delicate example of Tujia craftsmanship (Figure 8).
Most of the Tujia doors to the principal sitting room
have six door panels that are 2.8 meters high and 5 me-
ters wide. These six door panels, installed via the door
spindles, form three doors to the room. The ends of each
panel have the penetrating or relief flower-shaped
Open Access JBCPR
Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China
Open Access JBCPR
Figure 6. The decorations of stool pillars picture by Kui Zhao, 2011.
sculptures. In the middle section of the panel are the door
windows of v arious desig ns. T he 6-panel doors are some-
times fake. The genuine 6-panel doors can be opened
forming three passages for people of different age and
status in the family. During the Spring Festival when the
villagers play the “lion lantern” [9,10], if the team fails to
enter the doors following the proper etiquette, they will
find it difficult to leave the room. The fake 6-panel doors,
though they also have th e same structure, have the panels
on the sides simply fixed and not operable, leaving only
two doors in the middle that can be op ened. Some villag-
ers would install two smaller door panels beside the
6-panel doors for the passage of chickens and dogs. The
smaller door is 1.1 meter high and 1.7 meter wide. It is
made of the timber of the Cedrela chinensis or “nut tree”
[11,12]. Owing to the safe environment in the village,
some houses are not equipped with the 6-panel doors and
only have the smaller doors.
The secondary room is often equipped with only one
wooden door with two panels. The other rooms use the
single-panel door. There are two types of single-panel
doors. One is the “embedded door” [9,10]. When closed,
the door panel is perfectly imbedd ed into the door frame.
The other is the “bang door” [9,10], because the door
panel is larger than the door frame, and it will produce a
“bang” noise when closing the door, which often results
in the clash between the door panel and frame.
The windows are obviously used for lighting and ven-
tilating; however, the windows in Pengjia Village have
been given cultural content by the Tujia carpenters.
These windows are shaped like Chinese characters. The
door windows are shaped in a rectangle while the wall
windows are square. The window designs are often
symmetrical horizontally or vertically. The carpenters
often make drawings first, then construct 3-cm patterns
in a tenon-and-mortise design and connect the patterns to
form the windows.
The window design reflects the craftsmanship and in-
dividuality of the Tujia carpenters and represents the
pursuit of the Tujia people for a happy life. Every win-
dow design made of the patterns has its own meaning.
Some carpenters even shape the patterns into sophisti-
cated designs or animals. These designs are vivid and
captivating even to those who do not understand their
precise cultural meanings.
Unfortunately, there are only a few carpenters left in
Pengjia Village who are trained in these traditional tech-
niques. The owner of the house where our team lived was
just such a carpenter. He lamented the loss of window
carving techniques, saying most of the carpenters today
have failed to inherit the traditional techniques and skill.
Old carpenters make the windows with their own hands,
but this distant village in the depth of mountains has b een
greatly influenced by the modern technologies. The
young carpenters today mainly use machines to cut the
battens, which are uniform in size and shape. However,
when we measured the structural components of the an-
cient buildings, we found some components had different
Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China
Figure 7. Tectonic evolution of double-beam structure;
photo & drawing by Kui Zhao, 2008.
Figure 8. The real 6-panel door, the fake 6-panel door and
the single-panel doors picture by Kui Zhao, 2007.
sizes. Probably the aesthetic attractiveness of the arti-
sanship cannot be realized by the components made by
the machines.
4.2. Roof
The building roofs in the Tujia villages produce an ex-
quisite flowing visual effect. Seen from the vertical exte-
rior layout, the buildings form the anatomy featured by
touching the sky but staying away from the floor and the
even top level but uneven floor level [11,12]. Such sec-
tion planes are formed by adopting the techniques of
suspended roof, omitted levels, and overlapping levels.
As a result, viewers will sense the lively and vivid feel-
ing without dullness or rigidity. The roof of the single
stilted building is not complex in itself. It is often shaped
like “—” or “L”. Sometimes, the huge dark grey roof, the
significant cantilever of the cornice, and the suspension
space in the lower level will form the unstable composi-
tion of “heavy head and unstable feet”. When the nu-
merous facades are viewed in a cluster, however, the
buildings become balanced, solemn, elastic, and rhyth-
mic, producing a generous and profound aesthetic sense.
If we see the overall layout of the Tuj ia stilted buildings,
we will find them in an irregular and elastic cluster.
Some houses are built catering to the topography of the
mountain. Some produce overlapping layers of structure.
Others are built on the edge of valleys. Many are lively
and vivid, and a select number are sublime because of
their positions on the hilltop.
Most of the stilted buildings in Pengjia Village are
built at the foot of the mountain or hill. The narrow space
under the cornices and the stairways following the ups
and downs of the topography often produce the atmos-
phere of suddenly a village emerges in the eyes when
people are wondering whether they have lost the direc-
tions [13,14]. Because of the large height difference in
the site area, the large roof of the front building often
surrounds the outdoor terrace of the rear building. Look-
ing down from the suspended balcony of the higher
building, you can see the overlapping and continuous
roofs, looking like a rolling hill. These roofs seem to be
surrounded by a crystal stream, a suspen sion bridge, yel-
low farm fields, and a huge, green mountain, which form
fantastic rural scenery (Figure 9).
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Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China 137
Figure 9. Roofs view of the cluster of stilted buildings pic-
ture by Kui Zhao, 2013.
4.3. Shrines
The Tujia buildings are cohabited by human beings and
immortal beings [16,17]. The Tujia people must locate
space in their homes to worship the immortal beings and
their ancestors. These spaces are often set in the shrines
or places equivalent to shrines, in the principal sitting
rooms. Often sacred spaces are placed in the kitchen.
People also believe that the immortal beings live in the
stables, mills, workshops, or corners in the house [16,17].
In addition, different ethnic groups allocate different
spaces in the house as shrines and adopt different func-
tions and shapes for the shrines, which become an im-
portant symbol identifying the ethnic group (Figure 10).
The shrines in the Peng Family Village are often
placed on the rear wall in the principal sitting room, in
the middle of which is installed a wood board called a
“shrine platform” to worship Grandfather Nuotuo and
Grandmother Nuotuo believed to be the ancestors of Tu-
jia people [15]. On the platform are placed the incense
burner, candles, and straw paper. On the top of the shrine
is another piece of wood board called a flame board, used
to prevent against fire. Apart from the above-mentioned
hardware in the shrine of the Tujia buildings, there is also
the ancestral list describing the hometown and name of
the ancestors pasted on the middle of the platform and
the flame board. After everything is set, the priest of the
Tujia people will be invited to hold ceremonies to usher
in the immortals beings or ancestors in to th e shrine. After
this ritual is completed, the space becomes a genuine
5. Spatial Features of the Buildings
The Tujia villages have the distinctive spatial forms
composed of the narrow lane space in the village, the
space under the cornices and the courtyard space sur-
rounded by the roof, and the building and the environ-
mental space beyond the village.
Figure 10. Shrine picture by Kui Zhao, 2007.
The villages of the Tujia people are often built on the
river with a certain distance from the river; this distance
can provide the buffer area when the flood comes. In
addition, the farmland in the buffer area is fertile and
becomes an excellent growing place for crops. The en-
trance roads to the villages are also built on the south
bank of the river, making the river the natural protection
for the villages. The sequence of the village layout is
composed of the hill roads, river, suspension bridge,
farmland, village, bamboo forests, and mountain in the
background. Such a spatial layout has formed the diver-
sified and complex exterior space of the village.
Walking into the village, crossing the winding lanes
and stepping onto the stairways, you will enter the com-
pact and diversified space in the single stilted buildings.
The stilted buildings have many forms; “—” shape,
“L”, and “U” shape are very popular. The Tujia people
choose different styled dwellings according to the com-
plex changes of the topog raphic landforms. They usually
build dwellings parallel to the contour line of the moun-
tain or hill, but still, many stilted buildings are built ver-
tical to the contour line because of the limited site area in
mountain rural area. The typical stilted building can be
divided into two parts: one is set on a higher level, an-
other on a lower area. The residential area in higher level
has the sitting room and bedroom, and vertical to it is the
suspended building. The suspension space in the lower
level has the toilet, bathroom, and pigpen. The second
floor, which connects to higher areas, has the dining
room, kitchen room and another bedroom. By taking
some typical stilted buildings in Pengjia Village as an
example, we summarize their spatial features as follows
(Figure s 1 1 and 12).
Every building has many rooms, and every room is
linked to each other. The sitting room is the most impor-
tant space, which has many doors on the walls in each
Open Access JBCPR
Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China
Figure 11. Analytical model of the single stilted building
Modeling picture by Kui Zhao, 2010.
Figure 12. Analysis of plane and section of stilted building
drawing by Kui Zhao, 2010.
direction. The other private rooms, such as the bedroom,
often have two doors that provide access to it. It repre-
sents that the family is cohesive but does create an am-
biguous awar eness of privacy.
In winter, people flock together around a brazier
(which is a large braze container in which charcoal is
burned) in the center of the sitting room. Under the sit-
ting room floor is empty, so the warm air flows into the
empty space keeping the inside room warm. It is a simple
but efficient folk technology (Figure 13).
Sewage is strictly separated from the hygienic areas.
To make better use of the space in lower level, th e stable
and toilet that produce odor and sewage are often placed
in this level. Thus, the wood structure of the h igher level
can remain dry and hygienic for the whole year. The
stilted buildings also separate the inhabitants from the
many insects and poisonous snakes living on the hill
Figure 13. warm floor in sitting room picture by Kui Zhao,
slopes. The courtyard serves as the transit space for
transport of goods. The rooms are arranged on the hill
slope, and consequently, they may not be reached by
directly by walking. The courtyard is often used as a
temporary storage space. The 2 meters wide stone paving
is beyond the ex tended cornice, and the cornices are us ed
as the shelter against rain and strong sunlight when peo-
ple walk on them.
6. Conclusions
The Tujia people’s stilted buildings have their own eth-
nic distinctiveness in construction, such as the quasi-
pavilion, suspension peripheral columns, double-beams,
stool-pillars, and huge roof, balcony and cornices. The
most distinctive feature is that many wooden pillars,
which help the inhabitants adapt to living in mountain
environment, support the buildings. High above the
ground, stilted buildings have the following advantages:
First, it can keep people away from deadly dangers,
such as miasma, poisonous vegetatio n, venomous snak es,
and huge wild animals.
Second, people can stay away from the humidity close
to the ground and prevent humidity related diseases.
Finally, there is better lighting upstairs, so people can
work on delicate handcrafts or simply enjoy the light.
The Tujia people also create their own architectural
decorative art: “Shuaqi”, handing columns, heads of
Shuaqi and ends of hanging columns, 6-panel doors, and
carved patterns windows. All of these have become
striking characteristics of the stilted buildings of the Tu-
jia people.
The carefully preserved stilted buildings in Pengjia
Village have inherited the traditional features o f th e Tujia
people’s architectures. Based on a large number of our
first-hand information through field research, ancient
architecture surveying, and mapping in this village, in
combination with o ur research in the Tujia areas over the
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Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China 139
past decade, the paper aims to record the real history and
keep the local art and traditional technology.
Since the end of last century, rapid economic devel-
opment in the past 20 years in China has resulted in the
introduction of cheap undifferentiated concrete buildings
in the Tujia area. Residents are faced with financial and
natural resources challenges such as decreasing forests
continuous rise of timber prices, and the rapidly dwin-
dling number of skilled wood workers—conditions that
force them to abandon traditional buildings. Additio nally,
the existing wo oden structures need regular maintenan ce,
such as having tiles replaced and being brushed with tung
oil. Since large population s are migr an t workers, many of
the houses on stilts become empty nests. Without proper
care, the stilted houses naturally collapse very easily.
This constantly required care is what makes people give
up on the stilted buildings. Local residents now tend to
build simple concrete buildings with low costs rather
than stilted buildings with complex wooden structures,
thus the regional characteristics of the Tujia architecture
are gradually disappearing.
In the past five years, highway extensions and railway
construction have brough t large number of tourists to the
Tujia area [15,17]. Visitors revel in the beautiful natural
scenery, while simultaneously marveling at these stilted
building clusters integrated with the landscape. This has
led the government to focusing on the return of traditional
building methods in an attempt to attract more visito rs in
order to meet the tourism demands and promote eco-
nomic development in the Tujia villages such as Pen gjia.
For example, starting in 2008 in the EnshiTujia
Autonomous Prefecture, Hubei Province, the government
began to restore the stilted build ings gradually from three
aspects to maintain the rural traditional regional charac-
The first priority is to protect the integrity of ancient
villages, such as the Pengjia Village, as articulated in th is
paper. Our team for example has performed measured
drawings, photographed every ancient building in the
village, established original files for them, set up protec-
tion signs, and stationed protection mechanisms to pro-
tect the village. Demolition, reconstruction, and new
building construc tion are strictly proh ibited in the ancient
village, and special funds will be allocated for the re-
pairing and reinforcement of these irreplaceable cultural
resources. To protect the ancient architecture, special
attention has also been paid to the village environment
and village culture, e.g., the restoration of riverine and
mountain vegetation, and support of the traditional
dances and customs of Pengjia Village as intangible cul-
tural heritage. Such examples include the “Hands Wav-
ing Dance”, “Drum Melody for Weeding”, and “Xuanen
Play”. Tourists are invited to participate in the dances to
experience the true traditional cultu re and meaning of th e
dances (Figure 14).
The second priority is to con stru c t new buildings in the
traditional way. The construction of new villages and
expansion of existing villages in Tujia area require plan-
ning and construction following traditional ideas, which
is completely out of the ordinary compared to commer-
cial development modes. Planners need to extract and
recombine traditional elements based on meticulous re-
search on traditional Tujia villages (such as the windows,
doors, roof, balcony, shrines and other elements as men-
tioned in the paper) and cooperate with the traditional
woodworkers. For example, our research team has made
numerous explorations and conducted various experi-
ments in the design of the Pengjia Village Visitor Center,
Qingyang Dam Ancient Village Renovation, Yumuzhai
Ancient Village Planning (Figure 15). In addition, we
highly encouraged the local residents to participate in
together with the Tujia building construction professional
team. Using these approaches, we hoped to encourage
the residents to consciously build and maintain the tradi-
tional wood structure buildings. In the meantime, the
local government pays subsidies on the increased cost
causing by building the complexity of the stilted build-
The third priority is to restore and apply the trad itional
style onto discordant architecture. The local government
describes it as “dressing up” the building, and this is
mainly targeted at the large number of newly built rough
concrete buildings at the end of last century. People have
begun to add wooden roof structures at the top of the
concrete structure, fitted them with wooden battens for
the exterior wall, replaced the concrete balcony railings
with suspension columns, Shuaqi, and head of Shuaqi
used in the balcony of Tujia people, and replaced the
aluminum alloy doors and windows with unique Tujia
six-panel doors and bang doors. With this treatment, the
exterior of the buildings that cannot be removed now has
a traditional cover and is harmonious with the surround-
ing ancient village s (Figure 16).
We are applying our research through active involve-
ment in the protection of settlements with Tujia charac-
teristics and construction practices. The purpose of this
ongoing initiative is to preserve the regional characteristics
Figure 14. Protection of traditional buildings and folk cus-
toms picture by Kui Zhao, 2011.
Open Access JBCPR
Architectural Features of Stilted Buildings of the Tujia People: A Case Study of Ancient Buildings in the
Peng Family Village in Western Hubei Province, China
Open Access JBCPR
Figure 15. Directing Tujia people to build new stilted build-
ings using authentic traditional techniques picture by Kui
Zhao, 2010.
Figure 16. “Dress up” the discordant architecture picture
by Kui Zhao, 2011.
of Tujia buildings and to help the international commu-
nity understand the unique architectural forms of this
ethnic group in inland Chin a.
Ultimately, it is the inherent beau ty of traditional Tujia
architecture that demands that we share this research to
protect and preserve the Tujia villages for future genera-
7. Acknowledgements
The research was sponsored by the National Natural
Science Foundation of China (No. 50978111).
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