On the trails along mountain slopes leading to the rock plateau of Dong Van, Meo Vac, Ha Giang province, the visitors are always attracted by impressive landscape. Not only that there’re also beautiful villages with unique architecture, most notable of all are H’Mong (Mong) people’s rammed earth houses. The yellow earthen walls stand out between grey stone fence create a primal and mystic atmosphere.
Mong people has been living in cold, mountainous area for hundreds of years. The harsh weather influences greatly on their traditional house architecture. Their lifestyle and living environment has sharpen the uniqueness of earthen wall, thatched roof houses. Their material balances the temperature all year round, as well as fends off of wild animals and burglars.
To ram the earth into walls, builders first make wooden molds that are 1.5m long and 0.45m – 0.5m wide. After that earth is filled in these molds and rammed by mauls. The material has to be cleaned and free of roots, weeds and stones.
The process requires many labourers, mostly young people in the village, molds are fitted continuously until the walls are all done. The earthen walls are rammed evenly and firmly. After the completion, the owner will choose a good day that is compatible with his/her age to go into the forest and get woods for roofing.
Overall, a house of Mong people, no matter how big or small consists of 3 volumes and 2 doors (one main entrance, one side door and two windows). The house can have one or two wings. 3 main volumes are well organized. The left volume is the kitchen and the owners’ bedroom. In the right volume lies the fireplace and guest’s bed. The middle volume used for living is usually bigger and here rests the family’s altar.
The main entrance is made of fine wood, the door always opens on the inside and doesn’t have any hinges. The bolt is made of wood instead of iron because Mong people believe wood represents warmth, while cold steel or iron don’t bring up hospitality. Besides the main door, the side door used to bring the dead’s belongings into the house on funeral days. Only when heading out to the graveyard will they be carried through the entrance.
Another feature is the stone fence. To have a functional fence going around a house and a 200-300m2 plot. It can take months for the house owners and relatives to gather rocks and stones needed. Mong people explain that the long fence can shield the house against harsh winds and keep the temprature balance in both winter and summer.
Stones with different sizes and angles are wedged together, creating a sturdy outer wall without the need for any adhesive.
The wooden gate has a roof and a piece of red paper put between the fence, this is a decoration that contrasts with the cold in this area, together with colorful flowers in this region, the plateau appears as picturesque as a landscape painting.
After centuries, Mong people are still continuously renovating their traditional houses to adapt to the climate, lifestyle, working conditions yet preserve their heritage strongly.