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Chinese Architecture

Ancient Chinese Architecture

Ancient Chinese architecture is a miniature of the long-standing history and culture of China. It is obviously characterized by the region, nationality and times. Industrious Chinese laboring people created many architectural miracles such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Ancient Chinese architecture, which has distinctive features in single building, building complex and architectural art, is an outstanding example of the ancient oriental architectures.

Features of Ancient Architecture

Chinese architectural standards, in over two thousand years of history, have never been seriously challenged. As a result, there are several characteristics that describe most types of architecture in China

First, Chinese architecture tends to be horizontal in nature. Chinese buildings de-emphasize vertical walls. Instead, a heavy platform underlies a large roof, seeking to demonstrate breadth and solidity. For example, The Imperial Palace in the Forbidden City has ceilings much lower than those of equivalent spaces in Versailles or Buckingham Palace. The lower, wider architecture emphasizes their all-encompassing, astride-the-world nature.

Chinese architecture is also highly symmetrical, which theoretically supports the proper order of things and connotes a sense of stately grandeur. Most of the structures follow the strict principle of a center axis surrounded by symmetrical wings, such that the overall appearance of the individual structure is one of perfect symmetry. This type of axis-centered, symmetrical building principle, combined with a hierarchical layout for the entire building complex, reflects the aesthetic standards of balance and harmony. This symmetry applies to most buildings, with privilege and honor residing in the center position.

Ancient Chinese architecture is highly praised for its elegant profile and intricate structure. Besides, architects in ancient China paid special attention to color and ornamentation, either viewed from the perspective of the building as a whole or from the perspective of the building's individual parts. The architects of ancient China used different colors in accordance with particular needs or local customs. Besides, ancient Chinese buildings are characterized by an emphasis on the careful choice and form of interior furnishings as well as internal and external ornamentation, the latter to include gardens.

Another theme of Chinese architecture is the reservation of certain architectural features for people of certain status. Aspects of the building such as height, color, material, and size of the house were all regulated by law according to rank of the family living there. Certain items, such as yellow roof tiles and dragons decorations, were reserved for the emperor, and only he could have ten column facades or five arch gateways. The Emperor would live on the central axis of his palace, while subordinates would live on either side. Commoner or vernacular architecture maintained many of these principles but lacked the grandeur of imperial palaces.

Feng Shui, Enduring Architectural Tradition and Way of Living

The concept of Feng Shui (literally: wind and water) has been a principle guided of Chinese architecture for centuries. The principles of Feng Shui include traditional beliefs that seek to maximize flow of positive energies and minimize the flow of negative energies in a given space. For example, homes are best positioned with hills behind them and water in front. In Hong Kong, one apartment building was built recently in the shape of a square with a hole in the middle. The hole permits the dragon from the hills behind to get to the sea in front. Doorways and windows have proper and improper positions for facilitating the flow of positive energy.

Classical Chinese Garden

Classical Chinese Garden is an important part of Chinese architecture. Unlike traditional building architecture with its emphasis on symmetry, classical Chinese gardens were designed as asymmetrically as possible to recreate faithfully the peaceful and uninhibited wandering flow of nature. Carefully landscaped gardens show the contrast of rock and water, or hard and soft, which brings strength and grace. Specific plants are often planted in the garden to symbolize certain virtues or morals. Also, areas of gardens might depict scenes from famous stories to highlight other virtues.

In terms of garden owners, Chinese garden mainly fall into two categories: private garden and royal garden. Ancient gardens found in south Yangtze River, such as Suzhou, Yangzhou and Guangdong belong to priavte garden. The most noted loyal gardens are the Summer Palace in Beijing and the Chengde Mountain Resort in Chengde, Hebei province.


Architecture in Modern Society


Since entering the modern era, the Chinese have struggled to synthesize Chinese architectural principles and Western urban planning and design. China's intense population pressures and urban migration trends have led to the disappearance of traditional Chinese architecture as China makes room for more efficient but less remarkable buildings.




The architecture of China from the Neolithic (New Stone Age) culture to the 20th century, represents the most significant achievements of the world's longest continuous civilization. From large and extravagant temples to pleasant palaces, there are a lot to learn and see.


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