In late 10 to 20 years a new sign has come into shape that may topple down the aged tradition of cave dwelling by young generation who is earning more in the process of China' market economy and is inclined to build a home on the ground. They complain about dampness, stagnant air circulation and daylight insufficiency in old cave home; they pursue to be normal people living in normal house like most others in this country. After all 40 millions account for just a tiny part of enormous Chinese population.

More and more cave dwellers move out and live in the house of brick set up on the ground. They turn their back on the cave as if saying goodbye to past ragged life and poverty forever. Still many oldsters resist to move --- now their turn to complain about the summer heat and winter cold. They prefer living alone in the shabby cave to getting used to erected building with a possible serious cost of collapse of patriarchism as a consequence. Rationally saying, the oldsters sticking themselves to cave dwelling are partly out of psychological needs; they feel themselves as if naturally somehow attached to that environment where they were born, have spent most of their life time and will die there in the end.

However in recent years stubborn old people has found their comrade. Some college professors and academic researchers in vernacular architectures worry the impulse of abandoning cave dwellings in big scale will inevitably result in final and complete disappearance of this special traditional residential heritage; moreover, huge potential demand for on-the-ground brick houses requires a large amount of fuel, cement and other constructing resources which may further worsen existing suffered environment in the area. Some scholars are standing out and have launched a new movement aiming to preserve cave dwelling with introducing some fresh designs to meet with standards of living comfort and of sustainable vernacular housing engineering.

Liu Jiaping, a professor of Xi'an University of Architecture & Technology, also one of enthusiasts in Chinese cave dwelling, has headed a professional group and redesigned the cave dwelling. Their two-storey cave home is comparted into different functional spaces; kitchen is detached from living area, so is the store room from sleeping room and a shower room is added to the apartment. A glass-enclosed living space south-facing is arranged in the front of main cave entrance for better light absorbing in addition to a solar-heating system positioned on the top of cave house which can supply warm water and adjust in-house temperature, and even more furbishing measures that, all together has improved habitability and agreeableness of cave dwellings. What makes this recast project more appealing is its affordable cost for a good number of local residents. Only about RMB50 thousands yuan (equally US dollar 6,000 odd) can cover the expense of a 6-cave home. Actually a new 3 star cave hotel with totally 268 cave rooms was set up and in service in 2002 in Yan'an, north of Xi'an, Shaanxi province.

However, what extent the recreated version of cave dwelling can be accepted is so far not certain. Preserving the past is not, as always, an easy job even on weathered loess land of this oldest country. Maybe a larger spectrum of problems behind the wriggle should be realized that not only the about cave dwelling but severe environmental situation such as lapse of soil, excess of groundwater exploitation, woodcutting and air pollution that would drive more peasants to a state of hopeless poverty. That's why in a point of view the new style cave dwelling is the first step of green project in loess region of China and we expect poverty-struck cave dwellers will break loose their awful living status and every child, boys as well as girls like Meiyan, are able to go to school.

 

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