The Four Major Types of Traditional Architecture and Their Cultural Connotations
The palace and the pattern of city construction is one of the important types of traditional design.
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The earliest Palace to have been discovered so far is the remains of a Palace of the early Shang Dynasty" discovered at Erlitou in Yanshi City, Henan Province. A rammed foundation was found, on which constructions were built, surrounded by corridors and with a wide courtyard.
Comparatively complete remains of a palace, built in the capital of the Shang Dynasty, have also been found in Xiaotun Village, two kilometers northwest of Anyang, Henan Province. These are now known as the Yin ruins (Yin being another name for the Shang Dynasty). Excavation of the site has revealed group constructions laid out in three sections along a north-south axis, involving functions such as sacrificial ritual, administration and residence. This basic pattern of layout was followed in the building of all Imperial palaces through the ages.
Early capital constructions were extended on the basis of palaces. The capital of the Western Zhou at Fenggao (west of present-day Xi'an City) and the Eastern Capital Luoyi (now Luoyang of Henan Province) were constructed in line with ritual requirements. This pattern had also produced some impact on the constructions of capitals of later dynasties.
When China was unified by Emperor Qinshihuang, he built up the city of Xianyang (now Xianyang City in Shanxi Province), and the gigantic Epang Palace. On the basis of the Xingle Palace built at Xianyang in the Qin period, the Han Dynasty built its capital in Chang'an, involving the Changle, Weiyang and Jianzhang palaces. At the same time, the Northern and Southern palaces were also built at Luoyang. All these constructions composed the huge and extensive Imperial palace constructions. Chang'an, now Xi'an, the capital of the Sui and Tang dynasties, was the largest city in the world at that time. The Palace of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshougong) of the Sui period, and the Palace of Great Brightness (Damingong) and the Palace of Prosperity and Celebration (Xingqinggong) of the Tang period are all magnificent constructions. The Song Dynasty built its capital at Bianjing (now Kaifeng in Henan) and an Imperial residence. The Yuan Dynasty built its capital in reference to the requirements of the rites of Zhou at Beijing with more beautiful and magnificent palaces. In the changes of dynasties, the palaces built up by the previous dynasty were usually destroyed by fire or demolished for reconstruction. Today, the existing Palace relics without serious damage in the country are the Imperial Palace built During the period of the Ming and Qing and the Imperial Palace of the Qing at Shenyang.
The Beijing City of the Ming period was rebuilt and expanded on the basis of the capital of the Yuan. It was divided into three sections: the Palace City (Forbidden City), the Imperial City and the Great City (or Inner City). For the purpose of strengthening the defense of the capital, it had planned to construct an outer city to encircle the whole capital. But for lack of money, only outside walls were built to the south of the capital. They were 7,950 meters long from west to east, with one gate on each side and 3,100 meters long from north to south with three gates on both sides respectively. The three gates (Xuanwumen, Zhengyangrnen and Chongwenmen) on the north led to the Inner City. The two gates on the east and west were called Dongbianmen and Xibianmen. Within the Outer City, there were handicraft industry and business centers and the Temple of Heaven and the Altar of the God of Agriculture. In the north of the Outer City is situated the Great City, 6,650 meters long from west to east, and 5,350 meters long from north to south. Its south wall had three gates, that is, the three gates on the north of the Outer City. There were two gates each on its east, north and west walls. The Imperial City was situated in the south to the center of the inner city, 2,500 meters long from west to east, and 2,750 meters long from north to south. The Imperial City was constructed in an irregular square form with gates on its four side walls. The Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) was on its south wall. Within the Imperial City were located the Palace City (Forbidden City), temples, administrative offices and granaries. The Forbidden City is 960 meters long from north to south, and 760 meters wide from west to east and there are one gate on each of the four sides.
There was an axial alignment from north to south measuring about 7.5 kilometers long, along which the whole city of Beijing was located. Parallel to the alignment were two thoroughfares from north to south on both sides, which linked up numerous lanes to form a network with a number of streets stretching from west to east, thus forming the square-pattern style of the Inner City.
The Palace City, or the Forbidden City, of the Ming Dynasty was built During the 14 years starting from 1406. During the Qing period, its pattern was essentially kept intact. It is a city of a rectangular design, generally divided into two sections, court halls in the front section (Outer Palace) in the south, occupying the greater part of the city, and residences in the back section (Inner Palace) in the north. On the whole, group buildings form individual courtyards of different grades and positions, disposed along the north-to-south axial alignment. The alignment of the Forbidden City is the same alignment as the Beijing City. Along the alignment, in the front section there sit the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian). And in the back section, there sit the Hall of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), the Hall of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong), and the Hall of Union and Peace (Jiaotaidian) as the residences of the emperor and empress. On the western side of the residence, there is the Hall of Peace and Longevity (Ningshougong), the residence of the emperor's father. On the eastern side is the Hall for the Consolation of Mothers, (Cininggong), the residences of the empress dowager and concubines of the deceased emperor. Parallel to the central axial alignment, are two axial sub-lines, along which there are two more groups of constructions. These two sub-lines are intercrossed with a horizontal line extending from west to east. The Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen) on the central axial alignment serves as the joint point to link the horizontal line. Between the sub-lines and the central line, sit the Hall of Abstinence (Zhaigong) and the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxindian). Behind them are buildings for Imperial concubines. And many other halls and auxiliary buildings are also scattered between the lines. This design of disposition of buildings mainly along an axial line from north to south is intended for the standing out of the three halls, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which reflect the traditional idea of "the center position means the superlative." In this design, the gigantic and magnificent Forbidden City was spread out in a planned way to meet the demands of both the functions of administration and residence.
The superlative authorities of the emperor was fully demonstrated by the design of the disposition of constructions in the Forbidden City as well as in the detailed decorative treatment of constructions, inspiring his subjects to subordinate themselves to him. Now, let's go around the Forbidden City and See and experience its cultural aspects. From the southern Gate of Everlasting Stability (Yongdingmen) on the central line, the wide and straight thoroughfare leads us to the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen). In front of the gate, the opening extends eastward and westward. Under the azure skies, the gate wall painted with a dark red color suggests a mysterious world behind it. High up on the wall is the tower of the gate. Its solid and powerful configuration and the strong hue are in high contrast to the backdrop of the low and gray houses around it. Before the gate, there is the outer Golden Water River running across, over which five marble bridges are set. A pair of ornamental columns and a pair of stone lions stand on both sides before it. Behind them is the deep and reclusive passage through the gate.
Through the gate, the Imperial Street flanked by well-laid and low houses quietly extends forward to the Gate of Correct Demeanor (Duanmen). Passing the gate, a long and narrow path leads to a huge and complicated construction. It is the front gate of the Forbidden City, known as the Meridian Gate. The plan of the platform on top of the gate looks like an inverted "U." The courtyard behind the gate used to be a place for lashing those officials who had offended the emperor During the Ming period. But in the Qing Dynasty, it was a place for offering war prisoners to the Imperial court and a venue for the announcement of emperor's edicts and gathering of officials who were going to attend court discussion.
Through the Meridian Gate, a wide-open ground appears, across it there runs the Inner Golden Water River from the west to the southeast, over which there are five stone bridges. Across the bridges, there is the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
Passing the Gate of Supreme Harmony, a more spacious ground comes in sight. A magnificent hall sits high on the marble stone base. The base is a platform composed of three tiers with railings on each tier. The white stone railings with fine decorative patterns serve as a foil to the hall, making the latter seemingly taller and more grandiose. This is the Hall of Supreme Harmony where an emperor was enthroned, his birthday was celebrated, his wedding ceremony held, and his empress crowned. It is 63.9 meters wide and 37.77 meters long. Outside the hall, a pair of bronze turtles, bronze cranes, a solar corona, and a standard measurement container are on display to symbolize the everlasting sovereign of the state and the unification of the nation. Whenever a grand ceremony was to be held, rosin, agalloch eaglewood and boughs of pine were burned in the cavity of the turtles and cranes from which fragrant smokes would diffuse.
Behind the Gate of Supreme Harmony, on the same base there lies the Hall of Central Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. The former was the room where the emperor took a rest before his attending any grand ceremony. The latter was the place where the emperor feasted princes and ministers and hosted the Imperial court examinations
In the names of the three halls, a character "he," meaning harmony, is each used. This is the fundamental idea of value of traditional Chinese culture. Early in the pre-Qin times, Chinese culture had advocated the idea of harmony without identity, favoring a harmonious development and opposing monopoly and blind obedience. This idea has been cherished as a treasure over the past 2,000 years. When it is applied to social, political and life problems, rich cultural connotations will be produced. The meaning of these names bears the social and political ideals of pursuing peace, prosperity and everlasting sovereignty and order of the state.
Beyond the three halls, there lies the Inner Palace. Its front gate is called the Gate of Heavenly Purity. Through the gate, a passageway in the courtyard leads to the Hall of Heavenly Purity, where was the residence of the emperors During the Ming Dynasty. During the Qing period, Emperor Yongzheng used it as the hall to receive visiting foreign envoys. The Hall of Earthly Tranquility behind it used to be the residence of the empress. Later, it was used as a place for holding Shamanist sacrificial ceremonies, and the nuptial chamber of the emperor. In between these two halls is the Hall of Union and Peace. These three halls were built on the same one-tier platform. They are laid out similarly to the hall in the Outer Palace, though not as large and imposing as the latter.
At the back of the Hall of Earthly Tranquility is the Imperial Garden. In the garden, there are halls, pavilions, man-made hills, and a pond. They are all balanced in disposition. Though the place abounds in natural scenes, the settings still well match the whole style of the Inner Palace.
The climax on the central line is the Prospect Hill (Jingshan), situated to the north of the Forbidden City. Looking out from within the Imperial Garden, or from the space between buildings, one can get a glimpse of the hill against the blue sky. The hill is the commanding point of the city. Ascending it, looking over the capital, one can See the crowded constructions in the various courtyards of the Forbidden City, their roofs covered with yellowish glazed tiles just looking like golden waves shimmering under the brilliant sunshine.
Of all the ancient city constructions, the Imperial Ancestral Temple, the Altar of Land and Grain and the Temple of Heaven have their respective particularities. The Altar of Land and Grain where the emperor usually hosted the sacrificial ceremonies in person was built on the west side of the Imperial City in front of the Forbidden City in accordance with the rites of the Zhou Dynasty, opposite to the Imperial Ancestral Temple on the east side. Within the dimensions of the altar, there are three front gates on the north and then the Big Halberd Gate and the Hall of Worship on the south. Finally, the square altar surrounded by low walls.
The altar is a three-layer square platform, the top layer covered with five-color earth. According to the doctrines of the heavenly stems and earthly branches and the Yin and Yang and Five Elements, green earth is laid in the east, red in the south, white in the west, black in the north and yellow in the center, symbolizing the territory of the entire country. The color on the four inner sides of the wall surrounding the alter is identical to that of the earth in the four directions. The wall is coated with colored glazed tiles. Its external sides are coated with yellow glazed tiles. In the center of each outer side of the walls, there stands a white marble stone gate outside the gates, verdant cypresses grow in profusion.
The Temple of Heaven was the place where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties prayed for a good harvest in the year. It was built on the outskirts of the capital city- in accordance with the ancient system on the east side of the South-Facing Gate, covering an area four times the size of the Forbidden City. To worship Heaven had been an important political event of every dynasty through the ages. When the parents of emperors passed away, memorial ceremonies might be suspended for a time, but offering sacrifices to Heaven could never be stopped. The Temple of Heaven is more important than the Imperial Ancestral Temple. Therefore, the Temple of Heaven became the superlative ritual Construction
The Temple was first built in the early Ming period. After repeated renovations it has formed the style as it is now. In the general design, breaking off from the traditional way of building up multiple gates and courtyards along the central alignment, it adopted the way of "replacing more by less" to dispose the flat Altar of Heaven, the delicate Imperial Vault of Heaven with single cornices and a spiral top, and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest with upward three-tiered eaves and a spiral piercing top amidst the vast woods of cypress along the north-to-south alignment. The alignment is a high and wide causeway running through the woods, called Red Stairway Bridge. Since the Temple of Heaven is situated on the east side of the central axis of Beijing, its main entrance is on the west from where a straight coach way leads to link the bridge.
The atmosphere is solemn and quiet when walking along the coach way amid the dense woods. Ascending the bridge, one can look over the cypress woods that are roaring and surging in the wind just like the rolling sea. But the sky seems becoming more open and wider and deeper. It gives people a special feeling that the mysterious Heaven is so close to them while the earth on which numerous living beings and creatures are loaded has with drawn afar.
At the south end, the Altar of Heaven is a white-stone two level circular terrace, surrounded by two rounds of low wails. The inner wall is in the shape of a circle, and the outer wall is a square symbolizing the old Chinese idea about Heaven being round and Earth being square. On the center of the four sides of both walls there are white stone doors. On the Winter Solstice Day every year, emperors would come to the Altar to hold a sacrificial ceremony for gods in Heaven
At the north end, on the broad three-layer foundation, there stands the round Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. Its three-tier vaults covered with blue glazed tiles tower high up to the sky. Looking back to the south, one seems to find the Altar of Heaven and the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest are set aloof from the world and to have experienced the boundlessness of Heaven and the sacredness of the God.
Garden or park is another important part of Chinese architecture. China has a long Tradition of upholding its culture after nature. Under the influence, gardens built with natural scenes have developed. The garden art that stresses an artistic and poetic effect has made its brilliant achievements.
In the pre-Han period, gardens were the hunting ground for emperors and nobles without any artificial cultivation. Later, a few establishments were introduced into gardens such as the Gusu Stage built by King Helu of the State of Wu During the late spring and Autumn Period.
Emperor Wudi (r. 140-88 BC) of the Han Dynasty built the Imperial Forest Park, which involved facilities for residence, entertainment and rest. Particularly, a pond was built in the park, with an isle m the center of the pond, on which a pavilion was erected. This design is a duplicate of the fairyland of "one pond and three mountains" which is imbued with man's spiritual demands.
The unique private landscape garden originated in the Wei, Jin and Southern and Northern Dynasties periods. Starting from this time, Chinese garden developed toward two orientations, imperial garden and private garden. As the landlords of private gardens were mostly literati and officials who represented the highest level of feudal culture, private gardens are usually regarded as the epitome of the culture of ancient times
During the Wei and Jin periods, because of political turbulence and rivalries among rulers, the literati class, complaining of the vicissitudes of life ,and fame, used to lead a reclusive life in natural landscapes. At this time, garden building tended to the model of nature and endowed nature with a perfect personality. As a result, garden became a genuine art of architecture. As the theme of a private garden, man-made rock hills began to represent a scene of a forest. The firm and unbending pine, the bold and proud plum and the pure and sticky bamboo were the favorites of people in their gardens.
During the Tang Dynasty, garden building entered its prime stage as the country was strong enough to develop its economy and liberate the mind. Gardens mushroomed, most of them being concentrated in Chang'an and Luoyang. The tendency was to build small gardens suitable for the functions of daily life. Bai Juyi, a famous poet of the period, built his garden house at Luoyang, which was typical of the landscape gardens at the time. It covered an area of just over one hectare, one-third of which was for houses, one-fifth for water space, and one-ninth for bamboo grove. The garden was constructed centering round a pond, in which there were three isles. On these isles, there were pavilions and a bridge linked the bank and isles. In the pond, there were white lilies, and purple water chestnuts. The meandering bank was shaded by a thick bamboo forest. On the west bank, there were a pavilion, buildings and a veranda for feasting visitors, enjoying the moonlight, and listening to the murmur of a spring. On the north bank, stand the library for pupils to study. On the east bank was the granary. The residence was located on the south bank. In the garden, famous stones from Lake Taihu and other places were disposed for admiration. Black stone slabs were placed for sitting and lying on. Even there were a couple of cranes to match the atmosphere of a music performance. The elaborated scheme and the gallant style of the garden were unique.
Garden building in the Song period was very popular among the rich literati and people of other walks of life in various cities. Such gardens were more suitable for daily life and had a delicate and exquisite style. At the same time, more public parks developed rapidly .in the outskirts of cities. Private gardens were also regularly open to the public.
Garden building During the the Ming and Qing dynasties was concentrated in north China around the area of Beijing and in the south around the area of Suzhou. During this period, the theory and practice of garden building gradually became mature and professional garden builders appeared such as Tai Jicheng and Li Yu. Monographs on garden building such as How to Build a Garden, were also available. Contrast and unity were one of the principles often used in construction, emphasizing the principles of "more in less," "much in little," "the subordinate supplementing the principal" and "substantiality shaded by un-substantiality." By using these skills, an artistic effect of a continuation of different scenes arising before one's eyes could be achieved. It embodied an aesthetic pursuit of "originating from nature but on a higher plane than nature Private gardens built in this way in Suzhou are the best examples.
The Liuyuan (Lingering Garden) in Suzhou covers an area of more than three hectares of land. It has four sections. The middle section, built in the Ming period, is the most splendid of these. The east, north and west sections were built in the years from 1875 to 1908 (the reign period of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty).Located in the northwest of the residence, the garden can be entered through the front part of the residence. Other passages also lead to the garden without going through the residence. Entering the garden gate, one can See a meandering path leading to a small pavilion through two small courtyards. Looking through the windows of the pavilion, one can See hills, a pond, and pavilions dimly in the shade. Looking westward, one has a view of wave upon wave of foliage and buildings stretching into the distance, imbued in an atmosphere of tranquility and elegance. Leaving the pavilion and entering the middle part of the garden, one finds a clear pond before him. The middle part can be divided into two sections. Hills and the pond lie in the northwest, while in the southeast there is a courtyard and buildings. The Keting Pavilion is in the center of the north hill, and a small room with windows is built in the center of the west hill. The two buildings are all located on the rocks of the hills, shaded by trees. Tall cypresses and poplars grow in the garden. Together with towering rocks, they give a feeling of being deep in a forest. A bay huddles in the southeast side of the pond, and on the bank stands a small hut hidden in the green foliage, called "Green Shaded Room." On the east of the pond there is an island and a bridge and on the bank, a pavilion and a hall, which constitute another scenic spot
Going eastward from the Quxi Tower, one can See buildings in deep courtyards. The key hall, called Wufeng Xianguan (Celestial Hall of Five Peaks), with the beams and pillars built of nanmu wood, is also known as the Nanmu Hall. It is spacious and exquisite. Selected lake stones are on display, firm and vigorous, in strong contrast to the two small and quiet courtyards east of the hall. There is a veranda around the courtyard. The veranda and walls sometimes meet and sometimes part, seeming to form multiple courtyards. In these small courtyards, so small that they cannot even hold one person, rocks, stone bamboo shoots, bamboos, and palms are on display.
Going eastward from Jifeng Peak, one finds a group of buildings around a delicate and slim stone in a lake, named "the Cloudcapped Peak." A tower, called the Cloud-capped Tower, stands to its north as a screen. Ascending it, one can get a distant view of Huqiu (Tiger Hill) outside the city.
To the north of the west section, there is a small hill, the highest point in the garden, from where one can have a distant view of the city outskirts.
The layout design of the garden is full of changes in the use of space and light. From a narrow and twisted stretch of courtyards to an open ground with antique trees and then to the pavilion one is guided with one's view obscured until coming to a sudden bright and wide open space where the Green Shaded Room stands. This is an approach often used to execute the rule of "first restrain then relax." The small courtyards beside the veranda of the Celestial Hall of Five Peaks communicate and intermix with the large courtyards to make the latter appear as if they were much larger than they really are -- an approach based on comparison.
Another type of construction is that of religious structures. Various schools of Religion have appeared in Chinese history. The most influential of these include Buddhism, Taoism and Islam. Buddhism has produced a profound impact on the development of traditional Chinese culture. From the evolution and development of Buddhist temples, one can easily find the spirit of communication by which traditional Chinese culture adopted and assimilated foreign cultures.
The earliest Buddhist Temple recorded in historical documents is the White Horse Temple built outside Luoyang During the reign of Emperor Mingdi (r. 58-75) of the Eastern Han Dynasty. It was rebuilt on the basis of an Imperial office.
Buddhism was not widespread until the Jin and Southern and Northern Dynasties periods, when many monks came to China to preach their religious teachings. At that time, the types and styles of Buddhist temples were introduced from India and other countries. During this period, Buddhist temples and pagodas in China were modeled on Indian temples. The typical design of Temple construction was a tower around which monk's rooms were built to form a single courtyard. This courtyard type of Temple construction design is centripetal, with the central tower standing out, forming a characteristic architectural style.
The blend of Chinese and Indian designs of temples became very popular in the Wei and Jin dynasties. Though the pagoda was still the major construction, additional great halls appeared, either in front of or behind it. The Temple of Eternal Tranquility (Yongningsi) at Luoyang, built in the Northern Wei period, is composed of a pagoda, a hall and a courtyard. The key construction is a nine-storied square pagoda on a three-level base. To its north is a Buddhist Hall, surrounded by walls to form a rectangular courtyard. Sarira was preserved in the pagoda, which was wor shipped by Buddhists, so it was built in the center of the Temple premises, becoming the key construction. The image of Buddha was set in the hall and worshipped, so a Buddhist hall is next only to a pagoda in importance.
There were other types of temples that were rebuilt from residences donated by nobles and officials. They usually took the form of a hall in front and a preaching room at the back. With the introduction of this style into Temple building, temples with a number of houses with flowers and trees appeared and the traditional Chinese architectural style was preserved, showing more vestiges of Chinese culture.
At the same time, construction of grotto temples was also prevalent. Grottoes were originally a form of Buddhist temple, where monks could practice their self-cultivation in peace. Since the Wei and Jin dynasties, when they introduced into China, they quickly became blended with traditional Chinese constructions, quite different from their original style. Generally, in these grottoes, only images of the Buddha and murals were presented for worship. Other constructions were built in front of or beside the grottoes for monks to live and to chant scriptures in. China's grotto temples are depositaries of treasured sculptures, murals and other relics. Well-known grottoes in China include the Dunhuang Mogao Caves in Gansu, the Maijishan Caves at Tianshui in Gansu, the Yungang Grottoes at Datong in Shanxi, and the Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang m Henan.
From the Sui, Tang and Five Dynasties periods to the Song Dynasty, Buddhism developed into its prime stage. Buddhist temples had also formed their own Chinese style. The most important feature is that the design of temples was gradually transforming to adopt the pattern of Imperial constructions. The conventional idea of constructions being built along a central axis was introduced into the building of temples. The central pagoda was now replaced by a Buddhist hall as the principal construction and the centripetal layout was replaced by one running along an axial line. On either side of the main hall, there was a supporting hall and a courtyard with buildings on three or four sides. The pagoda was moved to the back or to one side of the hall to form a new courtyard. Sometimes, two pagodas might be built in front of the main hall or the main entrance. Typical of this pattern is the Temple of Prosperity (Longxingsi) in Zhengding County, Hebei. At the time, murals were also very common in temples. With the appearance of many large statues of the Buddha, multiple-storied buildings were also built. Wooden towers or pagodas were replaced by brick and stone ones. Several types of these more stylistic main towers or pagodas appeared. A complete Chinese style of Buddhist construction had been created on the basis of the intimate combination of traditional Chinese culture and foreign Buddhist culture
During the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, the unique form of lamaist dagoba, shaped like a bottle, of Tibetan Buddhism became widespread across the country. During the Qing Dynasty, the Vajrasana type of pagoda appeared. The form of this pagoda originated in India but it changed a great deal after its introduction into China. Most temples of the Tibetan sect of Buddhism were built amid mountains. Large and magnificent temples were built along the slopes and curves of mountains, changing the design of conventional temples. With their high terraces and red and white outer walls, gilded tiled roofs and trapezoid windows, these temples contrasted strongly with conventional temples. Their spacious but dim halls added a mysterious atmosphere to temples, quite different from the traditional Temple art that is full of worldly appeal.
Taoism is a native Religion originating in China. Its Temple constructions are gong or guan. This sort of building originally was used to make a watch-out because it is said immortals are fond of living in buildings of floors. Thus, storied buildings or pavilions have become the features of Taoist temples. In the Tang Dynasty, many emperors were believers in Taoism and called Taoist temples grog (palace) out of their respect for the faith. Taoist temples were wooden-framed constructions. Their design, like other traditional Chinese constructions, follows the pattern of a central axial line with symmetrical buildings on both sides. The decoration of buildings includes the symbol of the eight-trigrams and Supreme being (the Yin-Yang symbol), and the images of the Eight Immortals, in addition to many other creatures and plants symbolizing longevity, such as red-crowned cranes, deer, turtles, glossy ganoderma and hairvein agrimony. Taoist temples were usually built on mountains or beside rivers, in pursuit of a natural environment and a peaceful unworldly atmosphere. The existing famous" Taoist temples include the Temple of Mystery (Xuanmiaoguan) and Triple Purity Hall (Sanqingdian) in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province and the White Cloud Temple (Baiyunguan) in Beijing
Islam was introduced into China during the Tang period. The form and style of its constructions are different from those of Buddhist and Taoist temples. An Islamic mosque has a minaret or steeple, from which Moslems are called to prayer, and an ablution room for worshippers to bathe in. In the hall, there are no idols, but an empty shrine pointing in the direction of Mecca. Decorations on mosques are simply the text of the Koran, patterns of plants or geometric figures.
The mosques built During the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties retained more vestiges of foreign influence. They had towering minarets and semi-circular domes. By the Yuan period, the Chinese wood framework had been adopted in Islamic constructions and the plan layout was also used. But most of the Arabian style was still preserved. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Islamic constructions, apart from shrine and decorations, all used a wooden framework to form a Chinese Islamic style. A typical example is the mosque at Huajue Lane in Xi'an City. The Huajue Mosque is 246 meters long, extending through five courtyards. Each courtyard is separated from the others by walls, and each has a different style. In the first courtyard, there is a wooden archway, in the second a stone gateway, in the third a tower, in the fourth a pavilion, and in the fifth the main hall, which is also the main construction of the mosque. Combining the variations into a unified whole, the mosque was built along a central axial line. The constructions in the first four courtyards are comparatively smaller in scale than the main hall in the fifth courtyard to emphasize the grandeur of the latter. Its design and layout is identical to that of a Chinese palace construction. In some minority ethnic group areas, such as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, however, the original style, structure and materials used in mosques remain intact. Apart from the Huajue Mosque, other famous mosques include the mosque in Ox Street in Beijing and the Aitigar Mosque in Kashi, xmjiang
Another type of traditional Chinese architecture is houses of common people. The settlement areas of different ethnic groups in various places differ from each other in natural conditions, customs and ways of life and cultural traditions. Civilian houses bear most of the differences.
The Shui, Dong, Dai, Va and Jingpo minorities live in the damp .tropical forests in Yunnan Province. Their houses are built above the ground, supported by pillars and columns. The space beneath the house is used to raise poultry and domesticated animals and as storeroom. This type of house helps protect against harm from water, worms and snakes.
In north China, living on the prairie, the Mongolian, Kazakh and Tajik peoples often live in yurts. The yurt is a domed tent, supported by a frame structure bonded with leather bandages and covered with sheepskin or felt. It is erected on a grassless and leveled ground covered with sand, leather pads and felt. The yurt is portable and suitable for nomadic life.
The thick-walled terraced flat-roof house built by Tibetans in Tibet, southern Sichuan, Qinghai and southern Gansu is mainly a stone construction. Generally it is a three-storied house. The first floor is used to raise animals and as a warehouse, the second floor for living, including bedrooms, a kitchen and a storeroom, and the third floor has a prayer hall, balcony and toilet. Tibetan houses arc constructed with materials of original colors such as yellowish earth, black slabs and red timbers. Today, a number of such houses with their special characteristics remain in the Aba Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province.
The Uygurs are chiefly settled in the vast area south and north of the Tianshan Mountains. Their flat-roofed houses with arched verandas arc of their own specialties. They are in favor of using a fireplace, or warm-wall or a fire Kang bunker in the house to get warmth. Windows are designed on top of the house or toward a courtyard. They pay much attention to internal decorations, everything is tidy and clean and tapestries with bright colors are used for decorative purposes, an impressive presentation of the joyful, amiable and broad-minded character of the Uygur.
The cave dwellings scattered along the middle reaches of the Yellow River are classified into three types: the dwellings built into a hillside, houses built in pits, and brick or stone cave-in buildings. These dwellings, with thick walls and high raised ceilings, are warm in Winter and cool in summer. Constructed with simple and economical materials, the readily made dwellings are full of a sense of intimacy and harmony between man and nature
The Hakka clay houses scattered across Longyan area in the southern part of Fujian Province are castle-type constructions built for defense by the Hakka people when they migrated from the north and settled in the area. This type of castle, with its special earth-ramming skill and a romantic history, is often admired by strangers. It is in the form of a circle or a square, supported by heavily rammed earth walls, which are five-storied high and one meter thick. The diameter of the circle is about 70 meters at most. Inside the enclosure, there are three rings and about 300 rooms, making a residential community, colossal and steady.
Common timber houses built by the Han people vary in form in line with diverse topography and climate from north to south. Generally, houses in the north are built with thick walls and roofs, together with a spacious courtyard. In the south, houses are built with long-protruding eaves and a small courtyard, only for good ventilation and shield from sunlight. And their appearance is delicate and good-looking. However, in the southwest region, the first choice in a construction design is the liable orientation of seasonal winds, rather than sunshine from outside.
The compound with houses around a courtyard (siheyuan, or quadrangle, or courtyard house) in Beijing is typical of the traditional dwelling in north China. The type of dwelling features its strict seclusion from outside, and emphasizing the disposition of chambers in the order of superior and inferior standings of occupants and the symmetry of buildings. It is simply a secluded compound, something to bear the last vestiges of the feudal patriarchal system in China.
The entrance of the compound houses is usually open toward the east or south. This design is said to be affected by the belief of geomantic omen based on the doctrine of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements
Through the entrance and turning to the west, the front courtyard can be seen. It is short in length. In the courtyard, there sit the janitor's room, guest rooms, and a parlor. Visitors are received here. Passing the courtyard, and entering a gate leading to the internal courtyard, one can See the main chambers, and other rooms on both sides of the main rooms. The main chambers are for senior members of the family and others for junior and younger generations. In some cases, to the north of the main chambers, there is another small courtyard, where a kitchen, a toilet, storerooms, and rooms for housemaids and servants are disposed.
A large compound can be extended to have more courtyards along a central axis. Passage halls can link the courtyards. The main chambers in each courtyard are located along the central axial line. More houses in a larger compound can be expanded horizontally further to both sides from the central axis, which are linked by passages through the side rooms. Houses in a compound are surrounded by walls to form a secluded enclosure, in which flowers and trees are planted. The courtyard is usually spacious and all the rooms have good ventilation and abundant sunshine, isolated from wind and sandstorm, noise and disturbance.
Common houses in the vast areas such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang the western part of Hunan Province are characteristic of their combination with natural environment. The idea of dwelling is no longer confined in a man-made construction enclosed on six sides with walls, but extended into natural environment.
Villages and towns in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces are situated mostly along waterways. On both banks of a river, buildings are usually located. Piers are built to link with various places along the river. A river is the lifeline of the small towns. The river is flanked on both sides by long and meandering streets, which are the center of the town, where there are ancestral temples, workshops, shops, wine-houses and tea houses. All the shops are facing the street with the river at the back. Commodities are carried in through the water transportation. The narrow and twisted streets just like paths in a garden make one feel pleasant and convenient when going shopping in it. Amid the seething town, people can enjoy the buoyancy of the marketplace. The streets serve not only as traffic, but also a venue for public activities, where a busy and interwoven social relationship and a simple and comfortable cultural life are undergoing day after day
Bridges in various forms are placed across the river rhythmically. Sailing in a boat along the river, one can See the streets bustling with activities, men carrying water from the river, women doing laundry at banks, children playing under the shade of trees, making up a lively and beautiful scene.
Landing on the bank, one can See many lanes between high walls extending out from the river at a right angle. High above the lanes are black-roofed houses in rows leaving a narrow sight of the sky. Opening the door, one can See a small courtyard enclosed by thick walls, in which a path leads to the depth of the compound. A wisp of white cloud in the blue sky above, the courtyard is beamed with warm sunshine and full of the beauty of spring.