One of the common features of ancient houses is their yin-yang tile roofs. Hoi An tiles are mad of based thick and very hard. Each piece is a square whose side is elevated and about 17-22cm long. Houses roofed by yin-yang tile roofs are very airy, especially in the dry season. Another important feature is the eye-shapes on the front doors, which is considered as the soul of the ancient houses.
Hoi An ancient people thought that all human beings and objects had “eyes” to look at the real life and themselves. Therefore on the doors are wooden circles like 2 eyes looking towards the roads, which are called the door-eyes.
An ancient house must have a lot of wooden pillars in the center and along the 2 sides of walls with all kinds of rafters, beams, ceilings, partitions, doors and staircases and so on. The biggest pillar is called principal column or main column in the shape of a circle cylinder or square cylinder located near the center of the house. Most of the ancient houses are entirely of precious iron wood which is good against humid-proof and termite. In the house, there are a lot of big beautiful wooden boards engraved with Chinese characters is red lacquer or gilded with gold. The ones hang horizontally are called Horizontal lacquered boards white the long, narrow ones vertically hang on columns in pairs are called pairs of wood panels. Both the horizontal lacquered boards and pairs of wood panel show the pride and elegance of the house owner. Paralleled sentences are inscribed or nacred on the wood panels covered by lacquer, subtlety expressing indicating the art of playing words by the writer. The most distinctive feature of the ancient houses in Hoi An may be their architecture and sculpture on wood. The houses lie side by side ut they have different structures. When walking on the streets, visitors would see the high and low tile roofs, and the arts of architecture and wood sculpture are most clearly demonstrated at these highest sections. There is a system of wooden frames and girders close to the house roof – top, created by putting big and short wooden columns together in order to support beams and rafters of the roof, which helps to make the unity and to concentrate all forces into the pillars, etc. This frame system is called the set of “vi keo”, or “vai” called by Hoi An people.
An ancient house often has 2-3 types of “vai” used in different roofs. Especially the house wooden frames are attached each other by spelling, not by iron nails. At the top of the main set of “vai”, there is a wedge called the “main key” of all houses, frames. Therefore, it is only required to detach this main key for moving the house to another place. Moreover, purlins which are transverse beams of the ceiling must be calculated as long as the number of purlins, basing on the subsequence of purlins, basing on the subsequence of 4 words “birth” or “old age” in order to avoid the bad omens for the house keeper. Additionally, purlins can be elaborately and spectacularly decorated with the popular carved images such as carps, Eight weapons, four Seasons, crabs, shrimps, serpents like monsters, fishermen, woodcutters, tenant farmers and readers, etc. These have contributed to the everlasting attraction, speciality and distinctive values of Hoi An Ancient Houses. It is a must for visitors to be in some tipiclas of hundreds of such ancient houses in Hoi An Town.
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