The village of Kong Hu Xi

Kong Hu Xi is a place for the Tujia ethnic group ; from the Youshui river, it can be reached by walking for an hour through the hills. Surrounded by rice fields, the village is divided into two hamlets. In between, a recently built basket court is used as a market place, a seed-drying area and a public square. Settled in accordance with the Fengshui, this village features a wooden architecture that is typical of this minority and whose authenticity is exemplary. The houses in U, called diaojiaolou, whose wings are built on stilts to compensate for the sloping ground, remain the traditional home style. As it is the custom, the room of the ancestors occupies the center of the U. Built in wood, with tiled roofs and upturned eaves, they are embellished by alleyways with carved wooden banisters. These are used to hang laundry or agricultural products. The diajiaolou has many advantages: it is well ventilated, waterproof and thanks to its position above the ground, offers protection against snakes and insects.

At the center of the village a house fell in ruins. Besides the dwellings, the most peculiar local building is a Bai family ancestors room built during the Qing Dynasty. This quadrangular building with an area of 200 sq. m, located outside the village and whose roof and interior structure have now disappeared, is representative of the Tujia culture and was intended for the village community, when it was gathered to worship ancestors on the occasion of local social events or when important decisions were to be made. The design of this building is typical of the Huipai style, based on the principle of a mixed masonry-wood structure, with stepped side gables, and covered with glazed tiles with symbolic motifs.

Points for consideration :

Utilizing the partly ruined house would give a chance to demonstrate the compatibility between ancient construction and modernization, especially with regard to sanitation. The real issue, however, is still that our challenge isn’t heritage conservation but rather an aging population, the abandonment of buildings and the marginalization of this exceptional territory. On one hand, a difficult access guarantees both preservation and non-construction, but on the other hand it induces the risk of ruin over the medium term. Our thinking should focus on two aims: maintaining a resident workforce, maybe in a different domain than farming, and promoting heritage in the eyes of the population. Ecological tourism could be a good solution but it should target the Chinese themselves. Moreover, the home of the Bai family ancestors, which is ruined but has a real community value should be surveyed and restored as well as a wooden house. This would provide references for the two main typologies present in the village. At this point, the boats that travel through the river have limited capacity (approximately 20 seats) and so there isn’t any mass tourism yet. It might be wise to consolidate the very first steps in welcoming tourists and provide some facilities, guest houses and places to eat, in addition to small

In addition, some totally abandoned buildings could be dismantled before they are ruined, so as to constitute a reserve of materials to be used for the maintenance or reconstruction of other buildings.