Beautiful Vietnam
Stilt houses living monuments to Muong culture
  • | | April 19, 2011 08:57 AM

Old houses on stilts or nha san, a cultural attraction of Muong ethnic minorities people, has simple but mysterious beauty.

A stilt house of Muong people

There is a story about the origin of these houses, says Nguyen Van Nam, a Muong elderly person in Binh Thanh Commune, Cao Phong District, Hoa Binh Province. One day, Lang Da Can, the first ruler of Muong people caught a turtle.The turtle begged for his life, and in return, offered to show him how to build a special kind of house.

The turtle, after receiving his reprieve, taught Lang Da Can to build a house with four pillars, which would act as legs. The roof would act as a shell, the beam would be like a spine. Ironwood should be used for the pillars and tranh grass for the roof.

A traditional stilt house has three parts. A loft is used for storing food and utensils. The floor is used for general living and the space underneath the house is used to keep chickens and other small animals, as well as farming tools.

These houses are made mainly of wood and bamboo. The pillars are buried 80cm to 1m below the ground, so the wood used for these must be hard enough to resist rot, insects and worms. Roofs are made of palm leaf and grass, which helps to keep the inside cool in summer and warm in winter.

All doors are at the front of the house, which is divided into compartments. Even though there are no walls to separate these compartments, there are sometimes strict rules about entering or leaving these symbolic “rooms”.

Windows are also supernatural to Muong people, and women are not permitted to sit on them.

In the past, houses were used as a sign of a family’s wealth and social status.

The staircase of a nha san must be perpendicular to the house’s beam, and the number of steps must be odd.

A stilt house blend in naturally to their environment

Number of stairs must be odd

View from a stilt house

Nha san have kept their old design from long ago

These houses can be quite impressive


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