Dazhai (大寨) became a model village in China during the 1960’s, mostly for the purported achievements of its residents in not only agriculture but various engineering feats. The idea that such a well maintained village could develop out of the collective hard work of its residents was exactly the type of model that government officials were trying to replicate throughout the country under the banner of the people’s commune.

A large portion of Dazhai’s residents lived in “train-like” housing, which developed out of a combination of dispersed vernacular cave dwelling typologies and modern demands for economical and dense living. Rows of housing were built two levels high onto a gently sloping hill, so that at each level two rows of housing opened out to an exterior street. The smaller streets connected to a larger sloped street that led residents into the central town plaza.

A poster of Dazhai from the 1970's, showing the housing compound in the center right of the image.