Since the very emergence of humanity, the dwelling culture has been a significant symbol in the development of human civilization. With the advent of information age and modernization, the traditional culture and natural look of the originally isolated areas a undergoing tremendous changes or rapid extinction that calls for pressing actions to preserve and study the ethnic historical culture.
Restoration of ethnic architecture is an inevitable form of for an anthropological museum like China Ethnic Museum. It is worth mentioning that many of the restored architecture are still the places where ethnic people are residing and working in today. Social formations and religious beliefs are one of the root causes which produce the architectural forms of the ethnic minorities in China. The regional geographic environments determine the use of the building materials and the technical ways for performing the architectural system.
Ethnic groups like Dulong, Nu, Va, Li and Jino, lived in primitive societies of different stages in the beginning of 20th century. Since the people in these ethnic groups labored together and ate together, living in primitive communism, they chose the large common house to fit in the needs of living when matriarchal society was turning to patriarchal clan communes. Similarly, the Yi Nationality dwelling architecture built to suit the existing slavery society tells us the rigidly stratified social system, in which slaves could live only in small dark rooms, and spacious houses and tall castles are meant for slave owners.
Tibetans in Gansu Province who believe in Lamaism have their dwelling architectural layout in separable from the doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism. There is a sutra recital room in every household. Human and the God may not be separated. The Muslims believing in Islam in the same area have their religious needs concentrated in mosques, where they gather to pray on every Friday. The dwellings for Muslims are just for people to live in.
Ecological environment effects to the selection of building materials is another aspect to be considered. Wood structured houses on stilts and wood log houses, stone structured slab stone houses and blockhouses, bamboo structured house on stilts, thatched-wooden structured cave and Turpan dwelling and etc. The ethnic building structure reflects the local environment, ecology and their relationship with inhabitants. Bamboo houses are primarily for heat radiation and ventilation, while stone houses have thermal insulation function.
In the process of restoring the ethnic architecture, efforts have been made to use local artisans for the building work as well as the building materials used for the architecture. China Ethnic Museum are designed with participation of respective ethnic architects, and their construction is performed by the ethnic artisans of respective origin. Some of the building materials having very unique ethnic features are transported from specific localities to Beijing. For instance, the Banma grass from Tibet, stone slabs for Bouyei architecture, China fir for Miao architecture and wooden tiles for Yi architecture. The restoration of the architecture has been carried out with the materials and art from the original places, so it is the true and authentic replica.
Context above is adapted from China Nationalities Museum Architecture by Wang Ping, published in 1999.
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