Bixiang, China


Photographer: Liu Junyang

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

In Bixiang, a Miao village in south-west China’s Guizhou province, homes are built using a set of practices handed on from one generation to the next. On a day deemed auspicious for construction, work starts as soon as Yang Dinghong’s neighbours and other members of his village arrive to help him. They begin by setting the building’s alignment, then they lay the building’s foundations – a framework of logs raised half a metre or so above the ground. Next comes putting up the four parallel walls that divide the house’s interior into three rooms. The room between the second and the third of these walls is the house’s living room – the “zhengtang”. When the zhengtang’s walls are in place, a pig is dragged into the room and killed. Some of its blood is sprinkled over the house’s foundations and pillars. The last big task is putting up the building’s sustaining walls. When they are in place, the builders take a break to eat a meal of rice and chicken. Much work remains finishing and decorating Dinghong’s house. But with its basic structure completed, fireworks are set off and guests from local villages arrive bearing gifts. Bixiang has a new home.