Buyi Ethnic Minority: Flagstone House beside the Hills and the Rivers

The obvious feature of the Buyi people’s house is that they live by the side of the hills and the rivers. The houses of common people mostly take the shape of house with pavilions, or half storied building (the front side is like storied building, whereas the back side looks like bungalow), which is made of flagstones. The Buyi areas of Zhenning and Anshun in Guizhou province abound in stone materials with good quality, and also the big stone sheet with layers of even thickness. This thin stone sheet is a kind of water-produced shale. The local people make full use of the available resources and utilize materials at their hand to build up several flagstone houses tinted with strong folk characteristics. The walls of these flagstone houses are made by laying stone sheet and stone block, sometimes the height reaching as high as 5 or 6 meters. The roof is constructed by juxtaposing stone sheets together to form a diamond shape or in a scale-like shape according to the shape and quality of the stone. The houses made of stone will not only resist heavy wind and rain, and is also of simplicity and elegancy. Though it is weighty, the stone roof seems light, creating the feeling of amiability. In conclusion, except for the rafters made from sandal wood, all the rest is made of stone, even daily necessities such as tables, stools, the hearth, bowls, pestles, grinds, cisterns, jars, basins are all chiseled out of stone. All are simple but weighty. This kind of house is warm in winter and cool in summer, and can resist fire and moisture, only with the weakness of getting comparatively less daylight.

The local government of Zhenning Buyi and Miao autonomous county is situated in the Chengguan Town, where most of the houses are built of stone. There are dozens of three or four storied stone buildings. Since the color of the stone material is light gray, which appears clearer and more crystal after process, Zhenning looks brilliant during the day and sliver under the moonlight as if it is covered with snow and frost. Therefore, the title of “silver Zhenning” existed even in old times and has been widely spread in local community. Some of the old weathered stone buildings in this county have a history of more than 600 years; therefore, they can be compared to the static piece of music or the eternal epic.

The process of building houses in Buyi people is quite meticulous. Firstly, professional designer will be invited to select the place, which is called “fengshui”. The ideal place should be beside mountain and river. It should not only back on green mountains, but also face the verdure hills. The mountains at the back had better take the postures of “lying lions guarding around”, “dragons surrounding in defensive formation” and “noble man riding on horse back”, while the mountains at the front had better take the postures of “two dragons fighting for jewelry”, “double dragons playing with a pearl”, “thousands of horses returning to stables” or “the god of longevity rising up” and so on. Fortunately, the area of Buyi people abounds in hillsides formed by lime rocks and it is not difficult to find such kind of place. The commencing day of the project will be placed on a propitious day. One month before this day, a carpenter will be invited to make structure of the house with completely new materials. When the structure is erected on a propitious day, Master Lu Ban (father of the carpenter) will be honored by a sacrifice. The beam will be delivered from father-in-law and it is decorated with big flowers made by red silk. The deliverance will be accompanied by an orchestra and a team of acrobatic performance. When the beam is fixed, the singing and dancing ceremony and the feast will be held. Finally, the memorial tablet of ancestors and the god of cookery will be positioned honorably in new house. The whole process of construction will create a prevailing atmosphere of jubilee and concerted efforts in the whole Buyi village.