“TRADITIONAL HOUSES AS A COMPLEMENT IN BUILT ENVIRONMENT” Mr. Yin Min Paik Ph.D. Candidate Department of Architecture, Mandalay Technological University, Mandalay, Myanmar mongyi02@gmail.com
ABSTRACT: In this habitable world, the traditional living houses exist as a complement and national heritage and they should be preserved. Housing is the main essential shelter; it gives people protection from extreme weather and wild animals. It is a place for resting, eating, sleeping, living and having privacy. Today, in this changing trend, the control for not losing traditional characters becomes the responsibilities for architects. Considering these factors, it is required to study the traditional houses and to make a good record because it can be easily destroyed and left nothing for the posterity to be studied. At Mon state in Myanmar, people such as Mon, Myanmar, Kayin and other nationals are settled. The Mon, a distinctive branch of the Mon-Khmer peoples established themselves as the most cultured people in Southeast Asia, as their art and architecture clearly show. At present, changing of economy, working style and materials can change and influence on the style of traditional house. It should be aware of those changes to improve the standard of living, without loosing any traditional character and put them into consideration to be compatible for built environment. Influencing factors, architectural aspects, architectural features, auxiliary function and site compound are studied in this paper. The findings from the study endeavour to fill the need in preparation for the conservation and to reuse Mon traditional characters in built environment. Keywords: national heritage, traditional characters, Mon traditional houses, conservation

1. INTRODUCTION Architecture plays a very important role in the history of every nation and architectural buildings are the mirror of era. Public and Residential buildings of ancient times are built mostly with timber and bamboo, they can’t stand for a long time because they have no enough resistance as good as modern materials. Residential building is basic and essential for people. People eat their meals, take bath, sleep and rest in their houses. They spend most of their time in their houses so it is required the house to be comfortable and compatible to the owner’s requirements. Traditional houses are categorized according to their traditional jobs such as; agriculture, weaving, fishing, hunting and pottery. Among these jobs, the favorites of Mon nationals are agriculture and weaving. Therefore in this paper, it is confined only to study on the agriculture and weaving traditional houses. This paper will present about the analysis of the typical Mon traditional houses in various aspects such as; function, form, construction materials and techniques, décor architecture and details, architectural features and auxiliary functions.



Mon State, Mon National and their Religion

Mon State is situated on the Southern part of Myanmar between North latitude 14º 51’ and 17º 34’, and between East longitude 96º 52’ and 98º 12’. It has an area of 4747.750 square miles. The state borders Bago Division and Kayin State on the North, Kayin State and Thailand on the East, Tanintharyi on the South, Gulf Martaban and Andaman Sea on the West. Mon State has a tropical climate. The Mon national who belongs to the Austro-Asiatic subfamily were the old inhabitants of both Myanmar and Thailand who had had the contact with India from very early times. The Mon-Khmer subgroup of languages belongs to the Austroastic subfamily. At present, Mon are residing in Thaton, Kyeikhto, Beelin, Paung, Moattama, Mawlamyine, Thanpyuzayak, Mudon, Ye, Kyeikmaraw, Chaungzone, Bago, Yangon and Kayin State. Majority of Mon nationals are Buddhists. Mon nationals were such pious people that they used to set up stupas and pagodas. In lower Myanmar, Mon architecture has been seen in two famous pagodas namely Shwedagon and Bago Shwe Maw Daw. Mon always worship traditional spirits. Most of Mon traditional houses have been seeing in Paung Township, Mawlamyine Township, Kyaikmaraw Township, Chaungzone Township, Mudon Township, Tanphyuzayat Township, Ye Township.

Paung Township Chaungzone Township Mudon Township Tanphyuzayat Township Mawlamyine Township Kyaikmaraw Township

Ye Township

Figure 1. Location Map of Mon State

Figure 2. Location of Townships with Traditional Houses in Mon State

1.2 Mon Traditional Houses and their Types The house has been built under the guidance of the old Mon people, presiding Monk of a Buddhist Monastery and the old Mon carpenter. Construction time, selected earth spirit, site selection, dig out posts, raising of posts, position of Dragon, entering the new house are referred to the rule of Lawkasiddhi dissertation. The ratios of houses are also calculated from this rule. The characters of the house are a wooden structure raised on posts (stilt posts house), very large verandah area, parallel roofing and steep roofing. According to the Lawkasaddhi dissertation (AD 1725), the types of Mon traditional house were expressed such as; merchant house, slave house, king house, hunter house, wealthy person house, thief house, services of the king house and brothel. In those eras, these houses were found, but at the present day only wealthy person house are built. This paper studies this type of Mon traditional house.


Influencing Factors on Mon Traditional Houses There are three influencing factors such as; cultural, religious and climatic

factors influencing upon Mon traditional houses.


Figure 3. Cultural, Religious and Climatic Factor Influencing upon Mon Traditional House

a. Cultural Factors The followings are general culture factors of Mon traditional house. 1. The levels of main house and verandah are different to divide the private space and public space. 2. Living area is used for the guests sleeping at night. 3. The person who has the same traditional spirit with the owner can enter the living room. 4. The daughter room may be used for her married life. There is no specified space for son in some of Mon traditional house.

5. The “Mingalar” doors are used for their festival and carrying dead body of Mon national. 6. The parents’ room is placed at the South-East direction of the house. 7. Main stair is placed at the North and West direction of the house. The numbers of the tread of all stairs are odd. Before the construction of the house, Mon nationals regulated the following cultural factors according to the rule of Lawkasiddhi dissertation. 1. Selection of Construction Time and Earth Spirit 2. Site Selection and preparation of the Site 3. Selection of the Site Level and digging the Holes 4. Calculation for the Ratio of House and length of the post 5. Raising up the Posts

b. Religious Factors Mon national builds the large house to do their religious festival and other functions. They make the large doors in order to easily come in and out when their festival is celebrating. During the festivals, all of the doors, partitions and windows are opened. The Monks seat at the parents’ room and the audience seat at the other room. The king-post is placed at the South-East direction of the house. Shrine is placed at the living room at the South and East direction of the house.

c. Climatic Factors The design-with-nature approach found in the traditional house is best reflected in the climatic design of the house. To appreciate the climatic adaptations of the Mon traditional house, one must first understand the climatic and environmental conditions that the house is set in. Being located between North latitude 16º 24' and East longitude 97º 42', temperature is high throughout the year. In 2006, the average mean temperature was 27.4 ºC and the maximum temperature is 28.7 ºC. And then rainfalls occur from May to September which is in the southern part of Myanmar receiving abundant rainfall. In 2006, the maximum rainfall was 66.45 feet and found in July. Floods occur frequently in June, July, and August due to heavy rains. The main causes of climatic stress in research area are the highest rainfall, high temperatures, solar radiation, humidity and glare. To achieve climatic comfort in the Mon traditional house, these factors must be controlled besides the control of rain, floods and occasional strong winds.


2. ARCHITECTURAL ASPECTS OF MON TRADITIONAL HOUSE In this topic, the architectural aspects of typical Mon traditional house are studied. That includes studying function, form, construction materials, techniques, décor architecture and details, architectural features and auxiliary functions.


Function The function of typical Mon traditional house includes the accommodations,

functional relationship and area utilization. The accommodations include landing, verandah area, bachelor room, shrine area, living and guest room, parents’ room, daughter room, preparation area, dining within storage area and kitchen linked with water usage area. There are usually four main zones in Mon traditional house. They are public, semi-public, private and service zone. Verandah is used as public zone and articulates with living room. Living room, parents’ room, daughter room and preparation area are on the same level and under the main roof. Dining room, kitchen and water usage area are used as service zone. Water usage area is separated with kitchen area and it is just a timber deck. In all the accommodations of the house, the floor area of verandah is 330 sq.ft and it is found to be the largest area for multipurpose functions. The floor area of kitchen and water usage area are 135 sq.ft and it is found to be the smallest area int the house. The usage functions of all accommodations of typical Mon traditional house are shown within photo records from the research area in the following table.

Figure 4. Floor Plan, Zoning Plan and Area Utilization of Mon Traditional House

Table 1. Usage Function of Mon Traditional House


Functions 1. Transition space for public and private spaces

Photo Records


2. For cleaning feet area 3. Placing pots of cool drinking water 4. Also resting place for family 1. Families live at day time


2. Landlord make bamboo-strip and mat basket 3. For entertaining visitors, guests and relatives at day time

Shrine and Bachelor area

1. Do obeisance for family and guests 2. For repeating the precepts recited by the Monk 3. Unmarried son sleeping at night -

Living Room

1. The guests to sleep at nights 2. Do obeisance by family and guests

Parents’ Room

1. Parents’ sleeping at night 2. Praying king-post spirit

Daughter Room

1. Daughter sleeping place 2. Used for her married-life 1. Family eating, cooking and drinking place 2. Store bamboo-strip and basket on the soot

Dining and Kitchen area

3. Store firewood under the kitchen 4. Preparation of food, cooking, eating place for their traditional festivals 5. Keeping the supply of foods

Water usage area

1. Washing place 2. Put away the waste from kitchen

Paddy Storage

1. Store paddy in the storage 2. From the ground level to raise the floor level



Form The form of typical Mon traditional house is studied by the floor, wall and roof.

High floor level allows a person to walk with clearance above his head and to allow free ventilation. Raised floor offers protection from dirt, hostile wildlife, thieves and most importantly from the Monsoon flood which affects the Mon region. Walling is used as the exterior and interior cover in main building. These are made of weather boards arranged in such a way that the upper board overlaps the lower one to prevent rainwater from running through the exterior wall. Openings and windows are several types such as; folded doors, swing door with single leave and doubles are used in the main building and service area of the house. Verandah and kitchen area are partially screened and made with bamboo and timber handrail. The kitchen room is also partially covered with timber stripe. Parallel roofing is usually used in Mon traditional house. Verandah area, main house and service area are with gable end roofing. The overhang of verandah’s roofing and the main roofing meet at the verandah area. The junction of two roofing are placed with bamboo pole, log and palmyra pole gutter. Some traditional houses are added the roofing at the entrance of main stair and landing area.
Table 2. Floor height of Mon Traditional House Floor Level Change Ground to Landing Landing to Verandah Verandah To Living area Living to Dining area Dining to Kitchen Kitchen to Water usage Figure 5. Floor of Mon Traditional House Height 6.5’ 3˝ 9˝ 9˝ below 6˝ below 3˝below

Figure 6. Drawing of Mon Traditional House

2.3 Construction Materials and Techniques Since Mon rural has a tropical climate, building materials such as timber, rattan, tree roots, bamboo and leaves are easily available from the tropical forests. In Mon traditional house, timber is used as the building structures, rattan and tree roots are used for tying up joints whereas bamboo and leaves are used for flooring and walling.

Figure 7. Construction Materials; Bamboo Strip and Stitched nipa palm

Pillar foundations are traditionally fixed on brick or stone bases. According to the Mon traditional belief, all posts construction of main house are constructed up to tie beam and pole plate. Sei-ywe-zet, an ingenious tenon joins to interlock two vertical components such as; middle post and king post. Hpa, a square shaped piece of wood is inserted between the two vertical components.

Figure 8. Construction Technique of Footing

Stout girders (Talaing yet-ma) are attached through the outermost and the inner row of pillars at a height of six to eight feet. Upon the stout girders, timber beams (yet-ma) are laid with the rows of posts. These rested timber joists (hsin) are placed at approximately one foot intervals to support the planked flooring.

Figure 9. Construction Technique Stout Girder

Horizontal tie-beams (hteik) are connected to pillars across the upper width of the structure. Post-plates (shauk) are laid lengthwise on the tie-beams to provide support for the rafter (daing) which are also connected to the roof ridge (khaungshauk). King posts (kya-maw) vertically position on the tie-beam support the roof ridge and help distribute the weight of superstructure along the tie-beams down to the supporting pillars below. Upon the rafter, timber purlins are laid to support the bamboo sub-purlin. Bamboo sub-purlins are fastened to the thatch roofing with the bamboo stripe. A gutter is placed at the overhang of main roofing and verandah roofing intersection. It is hanging with the wooden panel from the rafter and laid on the tie beam of the verandah roofing. Unlike Western carpentry, nails are not widely used in assembling traditional wooden buildings in Myanmar. Instead the components parts are usually connected by a series of tenon and mortise joists.

Figure 10. Construction Technique of Gutter

Figure 11. Construction System of Mon Traditional House


Décor Architecture and Details Decorative elements such as sculpture or motifs cannot be seen at traditional

house. Simple decorative elements are found in the verandah handrail, door, window leaves and shrine. Roofing and walling are used as roughness and smoothly texture. They usually leave the houses untreated and painted with the earth-oil.


Figure 12. Swinging door with double leaves Figure 13. Swinging window with double leaves


Architectural Features of Mon Traditional Houses After studying the characteristics of Mon Traditional House, the following

obvious features are observed. These are as follow; 1. Building orientation faces to the North or West. 2. Building axis is parallel with the sun path (East-west direction). 3. Steep parallel roofing types and stilt posts houses are generally found. 4. Large verandah areas are provided and railed with only handrail. 5. Windows are based from the floor level and split-levels are preferred. 6. Stairs used to be placed in the North and South of the house.


Auxiliary Functions and Site Compound in Mon Traditional House Areas of the farmer sites are very large size and the areas of weaving sites

are fit with their house, according to their professional. The sites are long in the EastWest and narrow in North-South according to the house. Building entrance, stair, orientation are always preferred at the North and West direction according to their beliefs and also to climatic condition. The traditional site of Mon traditional house has well, granary, loom, haystack, and women bath area, cow waste storage, toilet, fire wood storage, cowshed etc. In the houses for farmer there is stilt post house consisting of a granary which may be either under the house or near the house. Food for cows, straws are stored in upper level and other equipments for the farm are stored under the floor. At the under floor the bullock cart is placed. Cow shed is near by the fence at the back of the compound. Tube well, storage tank, pump and bath room are in the compound but, separated from the main house. All traditional houses have a separate toilet far from the house and that is not connected with any uncovered. In conclusion, spatial plan of traditional house is composed with main house, plane ground in front of it and many other auxiliary functions besides the plane ground and at the back of main house.

Table 3. Usage of Auxiliary Functions Type of Functions Usage Function Photo Records


1. Storage of rice in the granary after harvest. 2. It is placed near the house.

Firewood storage

1. Used as a fuel for the kitchen. 2. Placed near the services area of the house.


1. Cattle were camp there. 2. Located at the back of the house.

Cow waste storage

1. Stored the cow waste for the fertilizer of agriculture. 2. Lay near the cowshed.


1. Stored hey for the meal of cows. 2. Placed at the corner of the site.

Weaving Loom

1. Loom is used by Mon women to weave a good deal of cloth for their professional. 2. It is placed under the house.


1. Tube well and storage tank are in the compound but, separated from the house.

Women Bath

1. Placed near the tube well and covered with the thatch and stitch nipa palm walling.

Rubber Grind

1. The hand mill for the rubber plate found it near the tube well.


1. Pour-flush toilet is used in the compound of the house. 2. Placed far from the house and well.


Mon nationals are ancient natives living in Myanmar and they have their own culture. They have had their own rule and their living standards are also high. They have regulated Lawkasiddhi dissertation for construction of their traditional houses with traditional materials and techniques. In the studying of Mon traditional houses in the Mon rural area, the common factors are identified. The evolution of traditional houses had responded to the factors such as geography, climate, craftsmanship and materials. The use of local materials such as wood, bamboo and thatch, etc are considered significant feature of traditional houses. The methods of building developed from the uses of these materials and created the essence and flavor of traditional houses, which have become a symbol of Mon heritage and identity. Through the process of modernization, traditional houses which have survived from the old period are changing radically from "tradition" to "modern" trend. Mon traditional houses are easy to construct, simple to maintain and mostly built from local materials that are cheap. Nowadays there are a few traditional houses in Mon village which are left because of the fact that Mon national develop their living standard with current situation. The large verandah area in the house is a common space for Mon families and it is a noble thing for their house. So, Mon traditional houses should be conserved, preserve and reused without ruining in the future year. It is envisaged that the attempt to carry out a good record of the Mon traditional character up to this present time is the sole objective of this research work. It is believed that the research work would contribute towards built environment for the Mon nationals, which comprise one of the nationals of our union, Myanmar.

4. REFERENCES Halliday, R. 1917. The Talaings. Khaing Win Latt, Mg. 2002. A Study on Vernacular Houses in Central Myanmar, Master Paper Report, YTU, Myanmar. Kyimyalwin, 1976. Mon Bawadalaiknidan. Maung Toe, Naing. 1989. Mondalaik Hint Monhmut. Ministry of Education, 1986. Myanmar English Dictionary. Myanmar Socialist Lunsin Party, 1971. Taingyindar Yinkyaehmut Yoeyar Dalaik Htonesanmyar (Mon). Myint Win, Mg and Saw Phyu Thein, Mg. 2004. Study on Kachin Vernacular Houses, Master Paper Report, YTU, Myanmar. Thura Myint Maung. 2001. Myanmar@aGlance (G). www.orientalarchitecture.com