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.
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
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
- Religious Architecture
- Garden Architecture
Courtyards and Hutong
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * *
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.