Cave house tourism brings big bucks


Photo taken on September 15, 2009 shows a new look of Yan’an, a sacred place of Chinese

Revolution that made generations of Chinese people yearn for, in northwest China’s Shaanxi

Province.  In recent years, the “red tourism” has been booming in Yan’an.   Photo by Tao Ming 


Photo taken in 1938 shows Chairman Mao Zedong writing his well-known work  

“On Protracted War”  in a cave house.



Cave house tourism brings big bucks 


By Cheng Lu, Liu Xin and Jiang Chenrong



While the number of Chinese tourists going overseas has quadrupled in the past decade, farmers from north China’s Loess Plateau have turned their cave houses into tourist attractions.

Cave houses are common in the area, especially in Yan’an, a city in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province that served as a revolutionary base for the Communist Party of China (CPC) for 13 years before the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.

Local resident Zhang Hujiao decided to promote cave house tourism in 2005, when many of her village’s younger residents were migrating to bigger cities.

She stayed behind and recognized the market value hiding behind the cave houses.

“I have experienced each generation of cave housing, but never imagined I could make a fortune from them,” Zhang said.

When she was young, her family lived in a yellow-loess cave, sharing a bed made out of bricks and heated by fire underneath. Tables, chairs and even food were luxuries.

“My family was very poor. I always complained to my mother: why is our home so crowded and dark? Why do we have to share one quilt?” she recalled.

Before 2005, when Zhang moved into a new environmentally friendly cave house, she was a farmer and vendor with an annual income of less than 2,000 yuan (326 U.S. dollars).

Her home was designed by Liu Jiaping, a professor from the Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology.

Cave houses are generally carved out of a hillside or excavated horizontally from a central “sunken courtyard” in order to save arable land and construction materials.

“They are one of the most distinctive parts of the Loess Plateau,” said 57-year-old Liu. “But considering the limited space, poor lighting and unstable structure, the traditional caves made out of yellow loess fail to meet people’s demands.”

New types of cave homes made out of natural stone came into being in 2005. Since then, tap water, natural gas and indoor bathrooms have become more common in the homes.

Yan’an has also helped promote “agritainment” by offering local residents preferential policies, such as tax exemptions and free inspection and training opportunities, in exchange for allowing tourists to visit their homes.

Zhang was one of those who chose to open her home to outsiders. She traveled to southwest China’s Sichuan Province to learn how to cook meals tourists would enjoy, as well as improved the hygienic conditions of her home.

“If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well,” she said.

Zhang’s business grew rapidly. In 2011, she invested over 1.2 million yuan to purchase 27 cave houses in the Date Garden, where Mao Zedong wrote many revolutionary works from 1943 to 1947. Zhang said her houses receive more than 100,000 tourists annually.

“Most are individual travelers and local residents who want to breathe fresh air and see beautiful scenery in the Date Garden,” she said.

Chinese agritainment first gained a foothold in the 1980s, attracting tourists from home and abroad to areas like Yan’an, where it has acted as an economic growth point since 2005.

According to the municipal tourism bureau, Yan’an has over 2,500 agritainment resorts generating an annual income of 511 million yuan.

In addition to the Date Garden, other historical sites in Yan’an have seen a revival in cave house tourism, allowing Zhang and many others to boost their incomes substantially.

“Cave houses totally changed my life,” Zhang said.

However, the unusual type of tourism still faces a potential crisis. Although there are many cave houses open to tourists in Yan’an, many of them are poorly built and are running on a shortage of funds.

“Although very little heating is required in the winter and the rooms are cool in the summer, the tap water and bathrooms are my biggest concern,” He said.

“We need more support from the government and society,” Zhang added.

An estimated 30 to 40 million people in north China live in cave houses. In recent years, an increasing number of people have abandoned the homes and moved away from the suburbs to the inner city.

“But there are many who just cannot leave those houses,” said Zhang Yan, a culture and tourism researcher at the Shaanxi Academy of Social Sciences, adding that outsiders do not understand how important the homes are to those who wish to continue living in them.

Zhang Yan said promoting cave house tourism is a good way to preserve the homes while increasing the incomes of their residents.



Photo taken in May 2013 shows the overhauled cave houses in Zaoyuan or Date Garden in the

northwest of Yan’an City, where the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China

was located between  1944 and 1947.


 Photo taken in May 2013 shows simple interior furnishings inside a cave house in Zaoyuan.

A mottled portait of Chairman Mao could be seen put up on the wall.


Photo taken in May 2013 shows the local flavor decoration of a cave house.


Photo taken in May 2013 shows the exterior of a cave house with a color fading door curtain.

It looks so striking since each of its room has been equipped with a large air conditioner.

(Four photos above provided by the local government)


Photo taken in September 26, 2002 shows the first group of tourists checking in a stone cave

hotel in Yangjialing, a historical site in Yan’an.   Photo by Tao Ming


Photo taken on September 17, 2000 shows the unique architectural style of stepped cave

houses in Yan’an.   Photo by Wang Song 





  1. Fae wrote:

    Think about investments that supply quick annuities.

  2. Thaddeus wrote:

    Now it’s time to pick your specific investments.

  3. Jolie wrote:

    Think about investments that offer instant annuities.

  4. Sheryl wrote:

    This is true for funding advice as properly.

  5. Mora wrote:

    A financial advisor is your planning associate.

  6. Sheldon wrote:

    A financial advisor is your planning partner.

  7. Margarito wrote:

    Schwab Clever Portfolios invests in Schwab ETFs.

  8. Hi to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more from this web page, and your
    views are fastidious in support of new people.

  9. When someone writes an article he/she retains the plan of a
    user in his/her brain that how a user can understand
    it. So that’s why this paragraph is amazing.

  10. Angeline wrote:

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.
    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info.
    Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

  11. Aracely wrote:

    Thanks for another excellent post. Where else may just anyone get
    that kind of info in such a perfect manner of writing? I’ve a presentation next week,
    and I’m at the look for such information.

  12. Hello, i believe that i saw you visited my site so i got here to go back the choose?.I
    am trying to find issues to enhance my site!I guess its good enough to use some
    of your concepts!!

  13. Grupo Coral wrote:

    Wow! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a completely different
    topic but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Excellent choice
    of colors!

  14. Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the internet the simplest
    thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think about worries
    that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top
    as well as defined out the whole thing without having side effect ,
    people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more.

  15. Lucretia wrote:

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my site so i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to enhance my website!I suppose its ok to use a few of
    your ideas!!

  16. Agueda wrote:

    Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.
    I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back someday.
    I want to encourage you to continue your great work, have a nice morning!

  17. Gas hearth additionally keeps working in energy outages.

  18. Leon wrote:

    Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really realize
    what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Please also talk over
    with my site =). We can have a hyperlink exchange contract between us

  19. wrote:

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this article.
    It was practical. Keep on posting!

  20. wrote:

    Having read this I believed it was rather
    informative. I appreciate you finding the time
    and energy to put this content together. I once again find
    myself personally spending way too much time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

Leave a Reply