Thanks to Hainan government policies, traditional Hlai (Li) houses have become a rarity in Hainan. This section features shots of a few Hlai houses, just near Tongzha (now known as Wuzhishan), which I managed to visit in October 2003.
Taking the photos was a somewhat hurried affair. I told a Chinese friend that I wanted to see some authentic Hlai housing. He said that there were a few remnants still around Tongzha, and promptly took me there. After taking a few external shots, we rather unceremoniously asked the owner if we could look inside his house. He was most obliging, and the photos below are the result.
I am rather apologetic at putting these photos up. Due to the rather rushed nature of the visit and the fact that three years have passed since the photos were taken, I can't comment very much about the objects and scenes I was privileged to see. Nor am I very clear about the exact layout of the house that we did see. Still, they may be of interest to people, so I am posting them here with a few rudimentary comments.
The houses in question could be seen from the road. There were not a large number, as is clear from these photos.
We had a look inside the largest of the houses, with the owner's permission of course.
The interior was dark and space was quite confined. (I was told that West coast houses are larger, but am unable to confirm that).
The house had an extremely lived-in feel about it, as can be seen from the presence of clothing and utensils everywhere. This is also quite obviously a farmhouse, as can be seen from various farming implements leaning against the walls in some photos.
I was told that the family owning this house would have been considered quite well off in their day.
Looking at these photos, one can appreciate why the authorities feel these houses are primitive and backward, and should be replaced with modern housing.
Nevertheless, one wonders why a little more thought could not be put into 'modernising' the traditional Hlai house rather than destroying them wholesale and replacing them with nondescript blockhouses. Hlai houses are said to be very tough in typhoons and cooler than brick housing.