Yao-dong as a Spiritual Shelter for the Young Peasants
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A yao-dong is a vernacular architecture in northern China. “Dong” means a cave. A cave is one of the earliest human shelters. In thousand years of Chinese history, caves evolved into yao-dongs. A yao-dong is the spiritual shelter for the elderly. They live in the yellow soil, eat what is planted from the soil, and call themselves sons and daughters of yellow. But for the people unfamiliar with them, yao-dongs may be just caves or even slums. This thesis aims to demonstrate that the problem is much more complex than the association of the yao-dong with poverty. Every year 90 thousand natural villages disappear, including yao-dong villages. More importantly, culture disappears at a fast rate, as China urgently seeks to synchronize itself with the contemporary world and time. Through the investigation of yao-dongs, the thesis posits that the contemporary crisis is related to the growing inability to ground experiences and memories. Through field research, I investigated yao-dongs’ geography, culture and construction to better understand what living inside a yao-dong may feel like. I conclude by suggesting a design that can provide a simple and poetic life for young peasants.