Category Archives : History


Ancient Chinese Architecture

Ancient and Traditional Chinese Architecture

Together with European architecture and Arabian architecture, ancient Chinese architecture is an important component of the system of world architecture. During its long development, it gradually formed into a style which featured timberwork combining stone carving, rammed earth construction, bucket arch buildings and many other techniques. Industrious Chinese laboring people created many architectural miracles such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.

Chinese Architecture Features: The most significant characteristic of ancient Chinese architecture is the use of timber framework. Paintings and carvings were added to the architectural work to make it more beautiful and attractive. Ancient Chinese buildings have a long history which can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (16th century BC – 771 BC). It has its own principles of structure and layout. Through the long development, many wonders have been created by industrious and clever Chinese laboring people. Ancient Chinese architectural miracles are innumerable ranging from Great Wall, White Horse Temple, Mogao Caves to Summer Palace and Forbidden City.

Symmetrical layout of a courtyard
Ancient Chinese architecture is mainly timberwork. Wooden posts, beams, lintels and joists make up the framework of a house. Walls serve as the separation of rooms without bearing the weight of the whole house, which is unique to China. As a famous saying goes, ‘Chinese houses will still stand when their walls collapse.’ The specialty of wood requires antisepsis methods to be adopted, thus develops into Chinese own architectural painting decoration. Colored glaze roofs, windows with exquisite applique design and beautiful flower patterns on wooden pillars reflect the high-level of the craftsmen’s handicraft and their rich imagination.
The layout of a courtyard complex is also unique to China. The main structure is located on the central axis of a court while less-important structures are located to the left and right. The whole layout is symmetrical. Compared with European architectural style which is open and shut, a Chinese courtyard is like a hand scroll of painting which should be unfolded little by little. The scenery is different in each courtyard. Even in moving several steps within the court yard, you will be surprised at the changing of prospects. Likewise from the interior of the buildings the view from no two windows is the same.

 


Traditional Chinese Residence


A Courtyard of Wang’s Compound, Pingyao
Wang’s Compound PicturesTraditional Chinese residences reflect the national culture, the sub-culture of a specific region and that of the ethnic group within it. The traditional domestic architecture of China has five major styles.

Courtyards in Beijing (Siheyuan) or compounds with courtyards in northern China
Farmers’ Caves (Yaodong) in Northern Shaanxi Province
Earthen Buildings of Hakkas (Tulou) in southeast China’s Fujian Province
Seal-like Compound (Yikeyin) in Yunnan province
Stilt Houses (Diaojiaolou) on steep inclines or projecting over water in southern China

As well as their respective features, traditional residences tend to conform to their environment and to become integrated with it. They are expected to blend with the surrounding rivers and mountains, thus complimenting but never spoiling the natural beauty. Our ancestors made use of local materials and took the natural factors into consideration whenever they built a house.
The Si he yuan in northern China features a thick roof and walls and a wide courtyard to draw in maximum sunlight while ventilation is a prime feature of the diao jiao lou in the much warmer tropical climate of southern China.

The Si he yuan in Beijing reflects the formal royal ambiance with its symmetrical style while garden-residences such as the famous Garden of the Master of the Nets in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, gives priority to a harmonious blend with nature. Prince Gong’s Mansion in Beijing is the world’s largest Si he yuan. Si He Yuan vary substantially in different locations. For details, please refer to: Beijing’s Hutong and Courtyard , Qiao’s Compound and Wang’s Compound in Pingyao, and Dang Village in Hancheng around Xian of Shaanxi Province.
In calligraphy, the Chinese characters with a roof-like component relate to various houses. For example, with a pig, it is a home; with a cow, it is a prison; with a combination of two mouths it means ‘many houses’ – it is palace. Such characters combined with that for ‘ woman’ imply peace and safety. The logic behind this is based on two layers of meaning. Firstly, when a woman sits peacefully at home, it means there is no war. Secondly, when they lived in simple caves in open air, our ancestors faced the hazards of bad weather, wild animals and hostile tribes. By building houses, they were better protected, thus there was safety.

Chinese folk residence appears in different forms. Around Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, there are many well preserved old towns such as Luzhi Town, Tongli Town and Zhouzhuang. The peaceful atmosphere in these towns attracts numerous visitors to come for relaxation and refreshment. The unique ethnic residences are really eye openers. In Guizhou Province, Langde Miao Ethnic Minority Village is a fascinating place to discover the unique Miao’s builing – “Diaojiaolou” (stilt-houses). Visit these beautiful places, you will know more about the colorful Chinese architecture.


China Culture and History

China, one of the countries that can boast of an ancient civilization, has a long and mysterious history – almost 5,000 years of it! Like most other great civilizations of the world, China can trace her culture back to a blend of small original tribes which have expanded till they became the great country we have today.
It is recorded that Yuanmou man is the oldest hominoid in China and the oldest dynasty is Xia Dynasty. From the long history of China, there emerge many eminent people that have contributed a lot to the development of the whole country and to the enrichment of her history. Among them, there are emperors like Li Shimin (emperor Taizong of the Tang), philosophers like Confucius, great patriotic poets like Qu Yuan and so on.

Chinese society has progressed through five major stages – Primitive Society, Slave Society, Feudal Society, Semi-feudal and Semi-colonial Society, and Socialist Society. The rise and fall of the great dynasties forms a thread that runs through Chinese history, almost from the beginning. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st, 1949, China has become a socialist society and become stronger and stronger.