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Tibetan Stone Houses: One of the Special Architectures in Tibet

October,22 2020 BY Lobsang Tsering 0 COMMENTS

Tibetan stone houses, standing in tranquil villages off the main road of the scenic Sichuan-Tibet highway, is a special scene of your trip to Tibet by land.

In fact, stone and wood structures are the dominant buildings in Tibetan-inhabited areas of TAR, Qinghai Province, Gansu Province, and the west of Sichuan province.

In order to adapt to the weather conditions and environment in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the Tibetan traditionally built stone houses.

In remote mountains and deep canyons of the plateau, the village cottages are usually built up by stone slices that are connected with clay, and the gaps between the slices are filled with the crushed stone pieces. In this way, the stone houses are firm and tidy.

Here we are going to introduce you to typical Tibetan stone houses and some unique stone buildings in Tibet. We hope you will have the opportunity to appreciate the charm of Tibetan architecture up close during your Tibet tour.

Architectural Features of Tibetan Stone Houses

The stone house is the most common type of architecture in Tibet, especially in remote areas.

Although the specific architectural style may vary slightly from one Tibetan settlement to another, the general characteristics of the Tibetan-style stone house include the following.

Levels of Tibetan Stone House

A Tibetan stone house usually comprises three to four levels.

The ground level is where livestock, fodder, and other items are stored. On the second level are the bedrooms and kitchen.

The third level is where the prayer room is situated. As Tibetans are mostly Buddhists, the prayer room for the recitation of Buddhist scriptures is an important part of a Tibetan home.

Tibetan Stone HouseTibetan Stone House

It is placed at the topmost level as no one is to reside or nothing is to be placed above the altar.

To create more space in the house, the second level is frequently extended beyond the existing walls.

With annexes added to the house, the exterior of the stone house takes on many changes.

Colors of Tibetan Stone Houses

The colors of the Tibetan stone houses are simple, yet well-coordinated, and usually comprise primary colors such as yellow, cream, beige and maroon-set against the brightly colored walls and roofs.

The walls are created out of coarse stones and have windows of various sizes-in a descending order from the top of the wall. On every window is a colorful eave.

Viewed against the blue sky, white clouds, and the shimmering white of the Snowy Mountains and glaciers, these colorful stone houses take on a rough and yet dignified style.

Elegant Interior Decoration of Tibetan Stone Houses

Unlike the plain exterior, the interior of Tibetan stone houses is very well laid out, with clearly defined priorities.

The major areas of a Tibetan folk house are the main living room and the praying chapel.

The main living room of a Tibetan house is usually larger than the other rooms and is used as a multi-functional room for family members, a dining room, a bedroom, and a reception hall.

The main furnishings in this room include a stove, a table, and a bed. It is decorated with Tibetan carpets, etc.

The other important room of a Tibetan house is the praying chapel. In addition to going to the monastery, Tibetans also spend their free time chanting sutras and praying to the Buddha in their own praying chapel.

The beams and corners of these rooms are decorated with carvings and paintings.

More Kinds of Buildings made by Stone in Tibet

In addition to the most common Tibetan stone houses, there are a number of other types of stone-built structures in Tibet.

Palace and Monasteries in Tibetan

In Tibet, stone and wood structures are the main structures of monasteries, in addition to ordinary dwellings. The most representative of stone-built buildings in Tibet is the Potala Palace.

The 13-story palace with 140,000 square meters of floor space and a height of 119 meters is entirely made of stone and wood.

The unified granite walls and wooden roof and eaves perfectly show the essence of ancient Tibetan architectural art.

Drepung Monastery in LhasaDrepung Monastery is one of the representatives of the masonry architecture of Tibetan times.

In addition to the Potala Palace, many monastery buildings such as Drepung Monastery in Lhasa and Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse are also representatives of the masonry architecture of Tibetan times.

When you visit Tibet, you shall not miss the chance to observe their distinctive architectural styles.

Jiaju Blockhouse in West Sichuan Province

Jiaju Tibetan Village, located in Danba County in western Sichuan Province, was once selected as the first of the six most beautiful ancient rural towns in China in 2005.

The most distinctive feature here is the unique Tibetan-style blockhouses. It preserves intact the basic characteristics of the Jiarong Tibetan folk houses, namely, one building for one family and all facing south.

These stone towers use original materials, using primitive technology, well preserved the local Tibetan traditional and rustic style.

The blockhouse in Jiaju Tibetan village is a typical stone and wood structure. Part of the wooden frame and eaves are red, more than two layers of stone walls for the original color of white.

How to plan a Tibet Tour with a Tibetan Stone House Visiting

Since all general Tibet tours will take you to visit the famous Potala Palace, as well as some other important monasteries in Tibet, there are some ways to customize a more in-depth trip to Tibet to explore those traditional Tibetan stone houses.

Chengdu Lhasa Overland Tour via Sichuan-Tibet highway

It is the best way to see types of Tibetan stone houses from Kham (a region of the ancient Tibetan Empire) in west Tibet to Tibet by overland through the Sichuan-Tibet highway.

The Chengdu Lhasa Overland tour takes around 2 weeks. You can either travel along the G318 or G317 highway.

Stone house along Sichuan-Tibet HighwayStone house along Sichuan-Tibet Highway

During the overland journey, you will pass through western Sichuan to eastern Tibet, where different branches of the Tibetan community live. You can experience the different Tibetan folk culture and kinds of stone houses in just one go.

Customize a Tibetan Stone House Visit

If you only have a short journey in Tibet, you can also arrange a family tour to visit a local Tibetan family.

In most Tibetan villages, original stone houses still remain. If you are particularly interested in Tibetan stone houses, you can tell your one-on-one travel advisor to arrange a Tibetan home visit when he/she helps you customize your travel route in Tibet, so you can see up close what the real Tibetan stone house is like and how the local Tibetan live in this house.


The technique of building stone houses by hand, using natural stone and clay from the Tibetan plateau, demonstrates not only the Tibetan's understanding of stone, but also their unique insight into construction.

Which stones can be used to pad corners, which stones can be used to fill walls, and how to articulate the clay just right with the stones in the process of building a wall are all experiences that have been accumulated through trial and error.

When you travel to Tibet, don't miss a chance to see the traditional Tibetan houses and experience the wisdom of the local people.

Apart from home visits, you can also view another art of stone masonry while visiting a monastery. Building majestic palaces is different from residential houses. But these are all part of the masonry techniques used in traditional Tibetan architecture.

If this is of particular interest to you, feel free to contact us. Our professional Tibet travel consultants can arrange a detailed itinerary for you and give you an in-depth understanding of the art of Tibetan architecture.

Lobsang Tsering

About the Author - Lobsang Tsering

I am a tour guide in Tibet an was Born in Kham Tibet, I am the father of 2 little girls, bachelor's degree. I have more than 7-years experience of being a tour guide in Tibet. I am a warm, friendly, knowledgeable and attractive guy.

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