Houses were built in a similar fashion. Most dwellings had pounded earth foundations and wooden frames, with brick, earth, or wood walls and flooring. The majority of ancient Chinese dwellings were built around a rectangular courtyard. The wealthy constructed three connected wings or bays, similar to the three sides of a window frame. They used red bricks for this purpose, but mud is also used when money is no object.
In northern China, there are some excavated settlements where you can see entire streets lined with house after house. They were made of wood, which deteriorates over time so we only have pictures left by them. But based on what we know about Chinese building techniques at that time, we can still go to those places today and feel like we're walking through someone's home.
People usually lived together before marriage, while getting to know each other, then finally moving out to start families of their own. Marriage was important for security, sharing one house could be difficult, especially if there were children involved. Husbands and wives had separate bedrooms and living rooms with privacy curtains or doors. If a couple wanted to show affection to each other outside of marriage, they would sleep in the same bed but it was not common.
In terms of architecture, the houses of ancient China were mostly one-story buildings with an enclosed courtyard. The wealthier people built three-stories, but only managers and professionals needed more than one floor.
Whether it was the house of a wealthy family, a poor family, a temple, or a palace, the plan of an old Chinese structure was identical. It consisted of an outer wall about five feet high and three-fourths of a mile long. Within this wall were rooms for eating, living, and sleeping. The only entrance was through a door at one end; the other end opened up to a garden. This is because Chinese people like privacy.
They also liked natural light so windows were often large openings in the wall or even on the roof which allowed sunlight into the house. There were no glass windows as we know them today; instead, there were latticed panels that opened and closed with wooden slats. Inside the dwelling, rooms were divided by bamboo screens for privacy and air circulation. Floors were made of packed earth, stone, or wood, depending on the status of the owner. Bamboo has been used for thousands of years by both ancient and modern China because of its durability and versatility. In fact, some buildings in Beijing are made entirely of bamboo!
It is believed that Chinese architects started using timber as early as 220 BC when they built their first imperial capital named Qinhuangdao.
The ancient Chinese built their little private dwellings out of dried mud, rough stones, and wood. The oldest homes are square, rectangular, or oval in shape. They had thatched roofs (often made of straw or reed bundles) supported by wooden poles, the foundation holes for which are often evident. The walls were usually about 1.5 meters high and made of daubers' bricks—a mixture of clay and straw that is molded into bricks and used to build both inside and outside the house. Windows were mostly open areas framed with bamboo or wood, but some larger settlements had glass windows.
People lived in ancestral homes for many years before they moved to another one. After a few decades, if the house was still standing, they would expand the living space by moving its wall outward or adding on to it. These expansions were always done with daubers' bricks because stone was too hard to work with. Sometimes when an owner wanted to make more room, he or she would simply stack more daubers' bricks against the original structure. As long as the weight of the new building wasn't too much for the roof to support, the old house would be able to stand alone under its own power.
Chinese people lived this way for over 5,000 years until the modern world changed all of this. With the arrival of the European settlers, the Chinese began to build their homes from brick or stone.