Yaodong Cave Dwellings in Yan’an


When you visit Yan’an, a revolutionary holy place in China and a cradle of Chinese civilization, you are still able to find a great number of caves houses, popularly called “Yaodong” in Chinese. The city proper of Yan’an is located about 400km north of Xian. But Yan’an has a large administration area inclding one district and 12 counties. Hukou Waterfalls and Huangdi Mausoleum are also under the administration of Yan’an.
These loess cave dwellings are one of the four traditional Chinese dwellings including Tulou ( earth houses, common in Fujian Province), Yaodong ( Cave Abodes, on the loess in the Northwest China), Ganlan ( a wood or bamboo storied house common in Guizhou, Guangdong and Guangxi) and Yikeyin (Seal-like Compound in popular Yunnan Province).
Yaodong, or cave residences are mainly divided into three categories – earth cave houses, brick cave houses and stone cave houses. Some of them are carved into hillsides and others are just dugouts.
Generally one standard cave house is 7-8m deep, 3m high and 3m wide. Some cave houses are dug as deep as 20m. One family usually have 3 or 5 caves houses which form a courtyard. Most of the cave house courtyards are built at the foot of a hill facing the sun. Above the cave dwellings are ofen planted with trees and flowers.
Yaodongs have the advantage of being cool in summer and warm in winter; both fire-proof and sound-proof; economic both in land and labour. Yaodongs are most popular in northen Shaanxi Province (Shaanbei) including Yan’an.
Most of the cave dwellings hosts are very kind and friendly to visitors. You may stop for a chat and picture taking when you pass by a cave residential courtyard.  
An earth cave house courtyard 
An earth cave house courtyard
A stone cave dwelling courtyard with a dog gate keeper 
A stone cave dwelling coutyard with a dog gate keeper
Chairman Mao (Mao Zedong) moved here and stayed in the cave house at Date Garden in Yan’an from Oct, 1943 to Dec, 1945.  
Chairman Mao (Mao Zedong) stayed in the Yaodong courtyard in Yan'an.
Today, cave dwellings are still available in the city center of Yan’an. 
Today, cave dwelling are still available in the city center of Yan'an
Any questions about the cave houses in Yan’an, please drop a line.

3 thoughts on “Yaodong Cave Dwellings in Yan’an

  1. Do you have any information as to how many people still live in these types of homes?
    I also think that many of them are not true “yaodong” because they have cement roofs and brick walls but are in between other true yaodong.

  2. Hello Jonus,

    As far as I know, there are about 40 million people still living in cave houses on the loess hills in the northwest China. Basically there are three kinds of Yaodongs: earth cave houses, earth and bricks cave houses, brick and stone cave houses. It is not correct to think Yaodongs are just earth cave houses.

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