2. Sky Well
The sky well is Hui architecture’s most important feature because it represents the Qi that exists in the residence. The sky well can be thought of as a courtyard, but unlike the common conception of courtyards as large open spaces, the courtyard of the Hui residence is very small in area, dictated by the fiercely hot climate of the area. Thus, the area within the residence that is exposed to the outer elements – namely the opening provided by the courtyard – is designed to be small and comparable in size to that of the opening of a well, hence the name.
According to Feng Shui concepts, water is the source of wealth. Huizhou was an area populated by merchants, and in accordance with their principles of conserving wealth, their residences were designed with roofs that conducted the flow of rainwater from all surfaces into the courtyard (the sky well), symbolic of an inflow of wealth from the outside to the inside, represented by the saying “May water from all directions return to the center of the home dwelling.”
The sky well is the only internal part of the house directly exposed to the exterior. In this way, it connects the home to the earth and heavens outside the built structure. It provides both sunlight and rain water, and is the only open area in which inhabitants conducted their daily activities, thus representing the important interconnection of the Qi of heaven, of earth, and that of humans, line with Feng Shui principles.