Traditional H’Mong Houses on Dong Van Rocks, Ha Giang

Distinct Features of H'mong Houses in Dong Van, Ha Giang

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: December 4, 2019

Dong Van Rock Plateau (Ha Giang) is beautiful and charming with not only rocks and wild nature, but also special cultures of ethnic people, especially the H’Mong people, whose traditional houses are remarkable.

The traditional H’mong houses on Dong Van rocks manifest locals’ richness, social statuses and their time of settling in the region. The nature, difficult topography and severe weather conditions of this region have had a strong influence on their architectural styles. Furthermore, the geographical elements, environments, customs and habits have formed extraordinary architectural styles of H’Mong people in the rock plateau.

Gate of traditional hmong house in Ha Giang

The architectural style of H’Mong houses is based on one model, regardless of whether the family is rich or poor. The main house features 3 compartments and two doors (a main and an extra one) with at least two windows. The house may have one or two lean-toes, however, these are not linked to the three compartments of the main house. Among these three compartments, the middle one, normally the largest on is for worshipping ancestors and welcoming guests and having meals. The left compartment is for cooking and also the bedroom of the house owners while the right compartment is for the fireplace and the bedrooms for guests.

H’Mong people always build an inlaid floor to place their things such as rice and corn after the harvest. These products are put here to avoid getting musty or worm-holes. This floor is also the bedroom for guests. Women are typically not allowed to sleep upstairs.

The traditional houses of H’Mong people are tile-roofed on a wooden frame. With these materials, the house will be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. H’Mong people attach special importance to the land on which they build their houses and consider it a very important affair. After choosing a suitable place, they start building the house but construction of the walls is very sophisticated. H’Mong people have to make wooden moulds with the length of 1.5m and the width of 0.45-0.5m, which is the thickness of the wall. The soil for making the wall must be of good quality without impurities such as rubbishes, tree roots or gravels. The soil is poured and rammed down into the moulds forming the house’s structure. Local people often ask for the help of young men in the village to create the walls. After finishing the walls, they roof for the house.

After that, the house owner will choose a good day to go to the forest and cut two big pillars for the main compartments. In the set of frames, pillars and roofs, these pillars are the most important. The house owner has to burn incense to worship to the Forest God for woods to build houses. They believe that with this ceremony, the Forest God will not scold them and their family will be happy, healthy and prosperous. These pillars are carefully selected without being worm-eaten, decayed or headless.

After completing the frame, they start roofing for the house. Local people often use tiles or thatch to roof their traditional houses. Richer people often roof their houses with double tiles. A traditional house with double tiles is a typical image of H’Mong’s architecture in the rock plateau. Nearby the main house, they build a store or cowshed. They do not build a wall for the cowshed but also roof it similar to the main house.

The main door, which is made of wood, is always opened to the inside. The door latch is also made of wood. H’Mong people reckon that if the door latch is made of iron, the house will become cold and lack of feelings. They also use images of bats to pray for the good fortune.

Another remarkable feature of traditional houses of H’Mong people is the stone fence. Most of house here are surrounded by stone fences, which are often built after the completion of the house. Stone fence, which is made as sophisticatedly as the house, is an important element in the architecture of H’Mong people.

To build a firm stone fence with the height of about 1.5m-1.6m, they spend months collecting the rocks and arranging them to make the fence. The fence is to confirm their boundary, stop the wind and prevent dangerous animals as well as keep the tamed animals indoor.

Each house has a stone fence and a gate. The gate may or may not include a roof with double tiles the main house. Within the fence, behind the gate is the private life of each family. H’Mong people often build their houses on a high place, learning to the mountain. Each village includes a few households and above. Some villages are gathered by a tribe. H’Mong people also grow some peach, plum or pear trees around their house. Once visiting the rock plateau in the spring, you will have a chance to view beautiful flowers by the grew fences or brown double tiled roofs.

In the plateau, small traditional houses of H’Mong people hold the depth of culture, which impress everyone, who once visiting this place.

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