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You are here:      Home News The good earth
The good earth

Nha bang DatIn the past, most houses in Vietnam were built from natural materials like earth, bamboo and palm leaves. Giang Lam reports on the sod houses that were once common in northern Vietnam.

Today, most houses in Vietnam are made of concrete or bricks. In the past, villagers relied on natural materials like soil, bamboo and palm leaves. Long ago, tiled-roof homes made of wood were a luxury that few people could afford.

In the mountains areas of northern Vietnam, village homes were typically made of an earth. Even in the central and southern parts of Vietnam, where the weather is much more tropical, the sod house was common. In the most ancient villages, only the pagoda, temple, and homes of the wealthy were built with bricks, wood and iron. The common villagers learned to build sturdy homes from soil. Some of these earth homes have remained standing for over a century.

Collecting clay from rice fields and ponds, villagers would spend many months building a home for their families. After cutting down bamboo and soaking it in the pond for months, the villagers would begin to form floors and walls by pressing well-kneaded clay into the bamboo stalks. The roof would be constructed from grass thatch and palm leaves. The finished house could last for decades.

As well as being cheap to build, these houses look charming. The textured walls keep the interior cool, reducing the need for fans or air conditioning. These houses suit their environment.

Eventually, the sod home was replace by bricks homes, since fungus and mold tend to thrive on the earth homes that were once located in the center of the city. Popular with tourist, the two-story earth homes remind people how much things have changed and how resourceful Vietnamese have been.

In another northern town, Viet Yen, this sits beside the Cau River, other unique building exits. A massive earth wall encircles the 300-year old Bo Da Pagoda. The pagoda is most famous for containing one of Vietnam’s oldest Buddhist Bibles, which ironically, is carved into wood and clay.

Architecture has changed quickly in Vietnam. In small villages, the sod house was replaced by concrete, steel and glass. Villages have gradually transitioned from wells to water pipes and from dirt floors to tiled floors.

Sod homes can still be found in small villages where urban development has not overtaken the traditional way of life. Over the next decades, the remaining earth homes will gradually disappear, until they exist only in museums and in old people’s memories.


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