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Chinese Architecture


China is really a nation with quite a long history and civilization, which could dates back approximately four thousand years. Archaeological material, which has been found, indicates that people were already living in the territory of China today one million years ago. Many architectural miracles had been left to Chinese offspring. They are not only the symbols of old Chinese architecture civilization, but also the china¡¯s historical carrier of politics, economy, culture, and science at that time.

Ancient Chinese architecture features unique timber framework that clearly identifies supporting structure and bonding structure. The top load of a structure will be transferred to its foundations through its posts, beams, lintels and joists. Walls bear no loading and separate space only so that windows and walls will not be restricted to certain locations on the walls.Timber framework decides that colour is the main ornament used on ancient Chinese architecture. In the beginning, paint was used on wood for antisepsis while later painting became an architectural ornament. In the feudal society, the use of colour was restricted according to strict social status classification. Since yellow was deemed noblest colour and green the second, they were often applied on palace painting, which was called Hexicaihua (a kind of Chinese colour painting) in Chinese. Usually, dragon or phoenix was painted on green background with mass gold powder or gold foil. The painting will give the structure a clear-cut and a magnificent noble image under the background of white granite basement. It is unique that such sharp color can achieve artistic effects.)

Chinese architecture is most famous for the Great Wall. But, there is so much more to Chinese Architecture than just that huge wall. Their temples are large and extravagant. Their palaces are a pleasure to look at. Even their roofs are breathtaking and detailed to the last drop of gloss or paint. Probably the most under-appreciated structure in all of China is the Forbidden City.

- Imperial Palace
- Imperial mausoleum architecture
- Religious Architecture
- Garden Architecture
- Quadrangle Courtyards and Hutong

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Imperial Palace
The Chinese word for "palace" is gong. In the earliest Chinese writings it meant no more than an ordinary house. After the founding of the Qin Dynasty (221- 207 B. C.), gong came gradually to mean the group of buildings in which the emperor lived and worked. At about the same time, Chinese palaces grew ever larger in scale. The famous palace complex, Efanggong was built by the first emperor Qinshihuang. Can you imagine it was built more than 2,000 years ago, covered 80,000 square meters and could hold 10,000 people? The Weiyanggong of the Western Han Dynasty (206 B. C.-24 A. D. ) had, within a periphery of 11 kilometres, as many as 43 halls and terraces. The Forbidden City of Beijing, which still stands intact and which served as the imperial palace for both Ming and Qing emperors (1368-1911) covers an area of 720,000 square metres and embraces many halls, towers, pavilions and studies measured as 9,900 bays. It is the greatest and biggest palace in the world. In short, palaces grew into a veritable city and are often called gongcheng (palace city).


Imperial mausoleum architecture
Imperial mausoleums are usually thought of a major part and stand for the highest architectural techniques in ancient Chinese architecture. Emperors would often withdraw millions, even billions to fund their tombs. These tombs were always magnificently extravagant and seriously guarded. Most imperial mausoleums have broad ways called Shendao (the Sacred Way) at the entrance. Along both sides of the Shendao, there are stone sculptures of men and animals that guard the tombs. Among the imperial mausoleums the thirteen tombs of Ming dynasty was the most famous one. Construction of the tombs started in 1409 and ended with the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. In over 200 years tombs were built over an area of 40 square kilometers, which is surrounded by walls totaling 40 kilometers. All together there are 13 emperors¡¯ tombs, each tomb is located at the foot of a separate hill and is linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way. The stone archway at the southern end of the Sacred Way, built in 1540, is 14 meters high and 19 meters wide, and is decorated with designs of clouds, waves and divine animals.
Within the past hundreds years, some of the imperial mausoleums had repeatedly been plundered. After 1949 imperial mausoleums were decreed cultural relics under special preservation, and opened to the public as tourist spots.


Religious Architecture
Chinese religious constructions consist mainly of temples of Buddhism, Lamaism, Islamism, and Taoism. They differ in layouts of buildings, ways of groupings, systems of colored paintings and themes of engravings, according to the different religious doctrines and requirements of usages. They are also different from other kinds of structures. Portraits of Buddhas, murals, engraved tablets, calligraphy, Buddhist utensils, furnishings, and Buddhist scriptures are carefully kept in those constructions. They are important cultural relics or art treasures of high value. The people's government has paid much attention to religious architecture. After the founding of New China, a special organization was set up to protect and renovate cultural relics and historical sites. In 1961, Regulations Regarding the Protection of National Key Cultural Relic units and put under appropriate protection. In recent years, to facilitate religious activities, special funds have been allocated by the government and many temple repaired. Some temples in Beijing have been opened as tourist sites.


Garden Architecture
Garden architecture is an important representation of Chinese ancient architecture. In the 11th century, the Liao Dynasty emperors had their temporary palaces built around the Western Hills. By the end of the 12th century, the Jin Dynasty emperors began to develop the scenic spot of the Fragrant Hills, which became a favourite resort for the later emperors. In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Taiyechi (now Beihai Park), and Wanshoushan (Longevity Hill) presently Qionghua Islet in Beihai Park were set as imperial garden. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Garden of Marvelous Hill was built on the present site of the Summer Palace. In the Qing dynasty, garden architecture reached its peak. The classical gardens that have been preserved were mostly built during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Some examples of these are the ¡° three hills and five gardens¡± includes Summer Palace and also the Qianlong garden in Forbidden City.
They do not only provide lodging or for leisure but also landscaping with architecture, environment and human in full harmony.
Excepting for the gardens built by the imperial families, there are still other garden types like the private gardens and the monastic etc. The private gardens are usually built in urban areas, neighbored with residences. They are usually built small and simple but delicate and look tasteful and play multiple functions. Most famous private gardens are situated in Suzhou, Jiangsu. The monastic gardens are commonly found in monasteries against quite and verdant mountains. With natural beauty, these gardens are often within the sacred atmosphere.


Quadrangle Courtyards and Hutong
Old Beijing residence are featured by quadrangly courtyards (also named Si he yuan in Chinese). Nowadays, many inhabitants are still living in such specially shaped houses.
A quadrangle courtyard refers to an enclosure with rooms on four sides, each which is occupied by a unit of a few rooms. The enclosure is compact and cosy and is endowed with marked national style. In the past, one such courtyard accommodated a single household. The allocation of the rooms kept abreast with the feudal patriarchal codes; The principal rooms, usually facing the south, high-ceilinged and well-furnished, were occupied by the head of the household; the rooms along the east and west sides of the courtyard were for their off-springs; rooms for women were behind the principal rooms, and called "Xiufang" or "Xiulou" (boudoir or a woman's bedroom); the rooms facing the north were generally used as the study or the parlour.
The entrance to the compound is in the south elevation with a screen wall standing behind it. This screen wall is important, as it is a reflection of Chinese culture and aesthetics. It was kept for ensuring the privacy of the families and against bad luck or evil ghosts according to folklore.


 
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