Yunnan province is known for the Naxi culture, but as city planners, we also were interested in Naxi architecture. Naxi traditional buildings are known for their quintessential tile roofs and wood framing, in addition to their resilience during earthquakes. Many of the traditional Naxi buildings withstood a recent earthquake, so the government has been encouraging builders to continue to use this style for new buildings. On a bike ride into the countryside north of Lijiang, we observed many new Naxi style buildings being built.
Traditional Naxi homes are built with heavy timbers as the main frames (typically joined without nails) fitted with other beams and supports through notches in the large beams. The entire framework is placed with the main supporting beams resting (and appear to be un-attached) on these interesting carved stone pedestals/plinths. The entire structures seem to have room to move during earthquakes, with the fitted joints providing flexibility and elasticity during shaking and the pedestals providing additional flexibility to avoid the rigidity that could make the entire structure fail. Stonework (mortar and cement block) is often included at the base of the buildings, but does not provide structural support, only wall material on the outside of the wood framework. This way if the stone crumbles, it does not cause the whole building to collapse and maybe also helps prevent the entire frame from sliding off of the pillar support stones.
The finished structures often include elaborate wood carvings on the panel work and on roof lines as additional decoration. These traditional buildings also include solar water heating systems on the roofs. Most of the buildings in China have these solar water heater systems on the rooftops and this seems to be a huge industry here and we often see building supply stores selling these systems.
***click to enlarge***