House and home in the world outlook of different cultures

I am going to look at the Slavonic, Chinese and Madagascarian traditions concerning home. Slavonic because Belarus is a

House and home in the world outlook of different cultures



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House and home in the world outlook of different cultures


Essay in Cross-cultural studies
















Minsk 2008




1. The choice of the place for the future house. 4

2. The choice of the time of the beginning of the construction works. 8

3. The process of house building. 9

4. A typical house, its orientation and structure. 11

5. The main zones of the house:

5.1. The zone of entrance. 13

5.2. The zone of cooking. 16

5.3. The zone of sleeping. 17

5.4. The zone of the sacred. 18

6. The difference in the attitude towards some objects:

6.1. A table. 19

6.2. A mirror. 20



House, as well as food, water and clothes is essential for man`s life. But a human being differs from animals; he wants to have not just a shelter but a place to satisfy all his necessities: to sleep, to eat, to hide himself from bad weather, to raise children, to worship God, etc. So he wants not just a house but a home. There are a lot of proverbs supporting the importance of home to a person: East or west, home is best; There is no place like home; My house is my fortress; and others. Such sayings exist in any language and in any culture. A house is a microlevel model of the Universe, so one can find a definite structure in it. Any house has zones with a special predestination, sacred objects, and there are always certain rules of living in a house. These zones, objects and rules differ from one culture to another, depending on the world outlook of a certain community, which in its turn has its roots in the religion of a nation, its traditions and historic heritage. That is why there are so many types of houses and ways of life in the world.

A person`s home as well as his spoken language and festive clothes can tell us what culture he belongs to, because consciously or unconsciously, one usually keeps to one`s native traditions, though it is rather difficult to do so in the modern world, especially in the city. Nevertheless, it is always very interesting to look deeper into the culture of other peoples` and of course into your own one and to try to compare them in any respect.

I am going to look at the Slavonic, Chinese and Madagascarian traditions concerning home. Slavonic because Belarus is a Slavonic country; Chinese because their traditions are very popular in our country as well as in the whole world; Madagascarian to compare these two with something extremely exotic. I must mention that Slavonic traditions are close to those in other European countries as Europe has been Christian since the earliest times; Chinese traditions are also widespread in other Asian countries; and Madagascarian ones are stuck to in many African countries and on the isles of the Indian Ocean. Thus, comparing the three types of traditional culture I shall compare the outlook of three large regions of the world. It is rather difficult to find the roots of this difference; they probably lie in the mentality of nations worked up for thousands of years. Slavonic traditions are based on the Christian way of life, though one still can see there a strong influence of popular beliefs. The basis for the Chinese way of life is the understanding of the Universe as a mixture of different kinds of energy. As for Malagasies, they live in accordance with the belief that spirits rule the world. So any aspect of building a house has its own rules different from those in other cultures and sometimes even opposite to them.

I believe the best way to compare the traditions concerning home is to bring together the three points of view on one particular subject and to look for the difference. So it is necessary to single out the points on which the comparison will be based. In any culture the following points are taken into consideration when building a house: the choice of the time and the place of building, the process of building, the typical structure of a house, the main zones singled out in a house and on the territory around it, the main objects used in the house and the rules of people`s behaviour at home. So my task is to find the points of similarity and difference between three cultures in this respect by means of consequent comparison.

1. The choice of the place for the future house.


Slavonic tradition says that the Earth has good and bad places: in good places temples are built, in bad ones cemeteries are placed. A house should be built in a good place, otherwise the family living in it will never be happy. The ways of finding out whether the place is good are as follows:

1) Places where poultry and cattle like to stay for the rest are considered good;

2) Places where black ants make their ant-hills are also thought very good ones. An ant-hill is carefully removed to the future building site and if the ants do not run away from this place, a house is then built there.

The number of places considered to be bad is much greater. In the past people used to pass the history of their town or village through generations, and all the places where something bad had ever happened were looked upon as bad ones. Thus, houses should not be built:

1) near cemeteries;

2) in the places where a person was killed or a battle happened in the past;

3) in the place where at least one fruit tree was stubbed up, not to say about a garden;

4) in the place of a former rye or wheat field;

5) in the places connected with fire, e. g. sites of a fire or places ever struck by a lightening;

6) in the places of old abandoned roads and crossroads, mills and wells;

7) on marshlands, disposal sites or places used for cattle slaughter;

8) in the places of some borders, e.g. between gardens;

9) in the places where grass does not grow for some unknown reason;

10) in the places connected with some accident, e.g. where a person fell off a horse and broke his leg. [2; 497]

In the absence of these bad indicators the place is considered appropriate even if there are no good indicators either.

In the Chinese culture the choice of a good place is based on other notions, though it has a great prominence, too. An ideal place is the one where the four heavenly animals are represented and harmonized; they are the Dragon, the Tiger, the Turtle and the Phoenix. The Dragon is the symbol of happiness. It is represented by the landscape with hills of a medium size; it is said that they are the best for the universal energy Chi to move freely and to do good to the people living in this place. High hills are avoided as they are obstacles for the movement of Chi; flat country is also avoided as in this case the energy flies away from the place. The East is the Dragon`s part of the world, that is why medium-size hills should be on the left (eastern) side of the house.

The Tiger is a balancing opposition to the Dragon; its part of the world is the West, its type of the landscape is low-hilled.

The Turtle is the symbol of help, constancy and longevity. Its part of the world is the North. The Turtle is represented by low hills.

The Phoenix bird symbolizes new possibilities. Its part of the world is the South and the landscape with very low hills, though not flat country. [3; 16]

Thus, the choice of the best place for the future house is made in accordance with the landscape. The ideal place is the one where the highest hills are on the left (eastern) side of the house, lower hills on the right side and behind the house. In front of the house there should be very low hills. If the house is not isolated, but is in a town or a village, the role of the hills is played by other houses.

There are also some other indicators for the place to be good. It is great if there is a river in front of the house, but it should make a turn, not to run straight, otherwise the positive energy Chi will pass by the house without influencing people. The river should also not run too fast or too slowly because everything should have a measure.

The role of the river can also be played by a road. A crossroads and a confluence of rivers is also a good place if only the house does not face the acute angle, as acute angles, pikes and any sharp objects directed towards the house accumulate the bad energy Sha Chi, which destroys the peace and happiness and needs to be protected from.

In Madagascarian culture the place for a house is chosen in accordance with the beliefs different from those in Slavonic and Chinese traditions. There are two main points to remember about

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