Chinese Terminology: Housing evolution in 70 years
Updated 22:30, 25-Sep-2019
By Wang Qiwei

Chinese people's homes have changed dramatically in size, scope, and design in the past few decades. Let's get on a journey and look at different types of housing in China.  

Historically, the courtyard homes in northern China were single extended family units, with a spacious courtyard. This compound is known as "siheyuan." 

From 1950s onwards, China was still recovering from years of conflict. And faced with an influx of people to cities, the "siheyuan" took a new form, the "dazayuan." That's because in order to save space and money, it was used as a housing complex, hosting multiple families.  

In the same period, while the lanes between the old houses in Beijing are called "hutong," in Shanghai the alleyways took a different name "longtang." The term also refers to the group of houses connected by the lane.  

These houses are usually two or three-story-high, towering above the mazes within. For Shanghai residents, they're just like the vessels of the city. And life pulses rhythmically through those narrow streets.  

After China's reform and opening-up in the 1970s, the country faced a rising demand for housing. And that's how the tube-shaped apartment building "tongzilou" came into being.  

Each floor of the building has a long corridor with rooms on both sides, kitchens and toilets were shared. Usually there were over ten families living on the same floor. Many people still have fond memories of living in this type of building, as they can recall the authentic community life.

For a long time, the majority of houses in China were state-owned and residents did not have ownership. It was a social obligation for the government to build public houses with nominal rent. This is called "housing welfare allocation."

However, due to insufficient financial support, this housing provision led to a critical shortage of houses. In 1998, the Chinese government abolished this welfare allocation, and gave the green light to private property development. The country's housing market soon took off.  

Since then, the amount of new residential homes, known as "commercial housing" has soared. For families with middle or low income, the government still provides support with "economical and affordable housing."  

Today, China has the world's largest housing market and people have a variety of housing options. No matter which one they choose, it's the comfort of home that really matters.