Dai - Settlements

A typical Dai village has 40 households, but those with 80 to 100 households are not uncommon. The settlements are permanent. They are mostly located by rivers or streams. Huge banyan trees and a delicate Buddhist temple or pagoda are the signs of a Dai village all across the Yunnan frontier. Dai houses vary regionally in type of construction and settlement pattern. In Xishuangbanna, each household builds its own bamboo house in the center of a fenced garden. The house (average floor area about 10 by 10 meters) is built 2 to 3 meters above the ground, on twenty-one wooden posts in three rows. People live upstairs, leaving the downstairs without walls for domestic animals and farm tools. The purlins (rafters) are made of bamboo poles, the walls and floors of bamboo mats. The steep pitched roof is thatched. Inside, seven posts with mat walls in the center row divide the house in half lengthwise: the inner part serves as a bedroom while the outer part is a living room. A fireplace in the living room near the entrance serves as the kitchen. As a rule, the room next to the stairs is for an adolescent daughter, so that she can meet her lover conveniently, while the room on the other side is for the parents and serves as grain barn as well. Clear-cut class differences in terms of size, structure, materials, and decoration were strictly observed before 1949. Now rich families build their houses with planked floors and walls and tile roofs. In Dehong the Dai in Ruili build their houses in basically the same style as the Dailü in Xishuangbanna, while the Daina's houses are of a quite different style. Under Han influence, most Daina build their houses in quadrangles: three one-story houses (one central and two side) are on 1-meter-high raised ground around a small courtyard. The houses have wooden frames, mud-brick walls, and thatch or tile roofs; the animal pens are usually by the gate, opposite the central house. The Dai in Yuanjiang, Xinping, and other areas live in two-story mud-brick houses, in the same style as their Yi and Han neighbors.

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