The Watch

Tianshui Traditional Houses

Qincheng, China

2004 and 2006 World Monuments Watch

According to legend, the town of Tianshui was founded long ago when a crack opened in the Earth from which poured sweet water, creating a lake and springs that would never run dry. Today, Tianshui, whose name means “water from heaven,” is a city distinguished by a collection of historic courtyard houses built in traditional styles. Constructed between 1644 and 1949, the 55 surviving houses are characterized by their ornately carved wooden gates and screens, and their multiple courtyards linked by corridors. Although Tianshui was declared a “Historically and Culturally Famous City” in 1994, only ten of its surviving structures are landmarked. All of them are threatened by the lack of funds and technical assistance needed to preserve them. Last update: December 2010

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