Muong - Settlements

The smallest unit of Muong habitation is the quel (hamlet), with about fifty households. Their housing design and architecture not only have remained unchanged for generations, but also reflect the structure of the household and the traditional social system in general. The houses are raised on 2-meter wood pilings, creating a rectangular space 6 to 13 meters long and 4 to 6 meters wide. The roof is thatched with elephant grass and the floor is made of both wood and bamboo. The house is then divided into two unequal parts by a shoulder-high bamboo screen. The smaller part is used as a bed-cum-store room and is where the women and unmarried girls spend most of their time. The larger compartment is used as a guest room as well as for cooking and dining. The ancestors' altar occupies the central place. Both the rooms have independent staircases but the front side is reserved for males and the back for females. There is also a conception of upper and lower parts, according to respective positions in the width of the house. The upper part is toward the windows overlooking the valley and the lower part leans towards the hillslope, without any window. The more social status one has, the greater the chance of being seated near the windows. Notables, male elders, and guests are assigned places in the upper side, whereas commoners, females, and children are assigned places in the lower side. Even while eating or gossiping, a similar positioning is still maintained between the males and females and the elders and youngsters in the family.

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