Inside ancient Chinese houses – Chinese architecture

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A k'ang bed in an old photo, with women sitting cross-legged on it

Inside Chinese houses: Women sitting on a k’ang bed in the 1890s

Heated bed platforms

Beginning in the Stone Age, people in China heated their beds before they slept in them. At first people just made a fire on the clay floor to warm it. Then they swept the ashes away before putting blankets down on the warm floor. By about 100 BC, though, under the Han Dynasty, many houses had a raised brick bed platform called a k’ang.

When was the Han Dynasty?
More about Chinese houses
All our China articles

What was a K’ang?

A k’ang had a stove built in underneath, so you could keep the fire going and sit on top on the warm bed. This platform was the main piece of furniture in most houses. Many women and old people spent most of their day sitting on the warm k’ang. Starting around 300 AD, during the Three Kingdoms period, builders invented more complicated pipes under the k’ang so that it worked more efficiently.

More about the Three Kingdoms 
Furniture in ancient Egypt

Other furniture inside Chinese houses

Besides the k’ang, most houses had a wooden table and some wooden stools. They had a water barrel and a grindstone to grind wheat or barley. Depending on how rich you were, you might have very few blankets and curtains and pillows in your house, or you might have a lot of them. You might have wooden chests or straw baskets to hold extra blankets and clothing, but cloth was so expensive that most people didn’t have any extra clothing.

What did people make out of straw?
History of baskets
What’s a grindstone for?

Beginning in the Han Dynasty, as paper became very popular in China, people used paper to make translucent windows. You couldn’t see through the paper as you can with glass windows, but paper was much cheaper than glass. In any case nobody really made glass in China.

The invention of paper
Who invented glass windows?

More about Chinese houses
More Chinese Architecture

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Chinese architecture:

Chinese food
Chinese families
Chinese schools
Ancient China Home

By |2018-10-19T04:48:31+00:00June 4th, 2017|Architecture, China|4 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Inside ancient Chinese houses – Chinese architecture. Study Guides, June 4, 2017. Web. January 22, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. Zoe October 19, 2018 at 2:43 am - Reply

    What things were inside a commoner’s house. Please answer as soon as possible

    • Karen Carr October 19, 2018 at 4:50 am

      This whole article is about ordinary people’s houses. Of course rich people’s houses had a lot more stuff in them! Rich people had furniture made out of beautiful carved wood and lacquer, and they had a lot of porcelain china, and a lot more cloth – curtains, and sheets, and towels, and carpets.

  2. shakira March 8, 2018 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    this helps me on my quiz

    • Karen Carr March 8, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      I’m happy to hear it! I hope the quiz goes well.

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