When an American Brings a Yunnan House Back Home

BEIJING, July 28, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from China.org.cn on a China folk house that traveled from China to America:

Among the woods in West Virginia, America, stands a dwelling with vivid Chinese ethnic features: tall wooden columns, doors inlaid with delicate carvings, and bright ornate patterns embellishing the walls.

Just a few years ago, the same farmhouse stood in Cizhong village, Yunnan province. John Flower, an American high school teacher discovered the house while he was in China. He was captivated by its architectural style which features a mixture of folk elements from the Han, Tibetan and Naxi ethnic groups. Knowing that the house sat within the designated zoning area of a future dam, the idea of “moving the house from Yunnan to America” suddenly surfaced in Flower’s head.

In 2017, Flower came back to Cizhong with a team of craftsmen who surveyed the house, took it apart plank by plank, pack every single piece, shipped them all the way to America, and finally decided to “reconstruct” the house in West Virginia.

In a way, Flower has brought “a taste of China” to more Americans. As the house was being rebuilt, many local carpenters volunteered to help. Some of them grew interested in China’s woodwork. Flower, who had been organizing field work in China for American students, started to hold cultural activities and summer camps there. This allowed more American students to get to know of Chinese culture, while participating in the reconstruction of the Chinese folk house themselves. One of the students who had been to Beijing once, couldn’t wait to fly to Yunnan to see more for himself after seeing and helping build the folk house. The pandemic has made travel between China and the U.S. more difficult for now, but the folk house, which traveled all the way to America from Yunnan, has become a bridge linking Chinese and American culture, and captures the heartfelt fondness of the American people for Chinese culture and the Chinese people.

What’s also worth mentioning is the mortise and tenon structure on which the house was built. Joinery parts carved into different shapes, with different amounts placed at just the right angles, could form stable structures without using a single nail or any glue. Similar to the Yunnan folk house mentioned above, “Yin Yu Tang“, another traditional Chinese abode from Anhui province built using the mortise-tenon structure, was moved to the U.S. in the 1990s and reconstructed in Salem, near Boston. One could say, the mortise-tenon structure is crucial to the cross-border “copy and paste” of such constructions.

Single wooden compartments are thin and are shaped varyingly, but once joined up, they come together as a powerful unity and deliver surprising effects. Just like the Yunnan folk house standing in America, which would not have been possible without the efforts of both the Chinese and American peoples, this “house of friendship” also sheds valuable light on the relationship between China and the U.S.

China Mosaic
When an American Brings a Yunnan House Back Home