Chinese architecture is most famous for the Great Wall of China. 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. If you would like to find more information about Chinese architecture, then you have come to the right place.
A Chinese structure is based on the principle of balance and symmetry. Office buildings, residences, temples, and palaces all follow the principle that the main structure is the axis. The secondary structures are positioned as two wings on either side to form the main room and yard. The distribution of interior space reflects Chinese social and ethnical values. For example, a traditional residential building assigns family members based on the family's hierarchy.
One fabulous example of Chinese architecture is the Buddhist temple which can be found scattered around China. Unfortunately, there are not many of these temples left. The reason being that most of them were torn down because the space was either needed for urban development, or others just fell apart because of many years of neglect. One tower which still remains is nearly 400 feet high which was erected in the Yung-ning-ssu dynasty. This temple is located at Toyang and was made at the beginning of the 6th century. However, there is not much information which can be found about these towers.
Information which is available says that the most distinctive kinds of Buddhist buildings in China are the stupa (t'a) or pagoda. The pagoda was mainly used to house sacred objects. As for the architecture, these temples can take the form of a storied tower, or, more rarely, a upturned bowl. As the centuries passed, however, the shape of these temples took new forms. In the second and third century, the structures were basically made out of wood. Their shape took the form of a tetragonal under Sung during the 10th Century. The next dynasty, Tang, decided to have their towers shaped into an octagon or diagonal. The number of stories varied with each of the buildings. The height demised regularly from the base to the summit but everything else remained the same.
Inside each Chinese city in the past, all had their own unique personalities. But to protect each of these cities, all of the Chinese cities were surrounded by strong, high walls. Inside those protective walls were wealthy houses which were made of wood and had tiles which were either painted with paint or a gloss. These types of houses all had their own walls to protect them.
The merchants, peasants, and poor did not have such luxuries. Most of their houses were made up of mud bricks and roots of reeds. Unfortunately, these houses were almost always drafty and did not protect their residence from the harsh elements. Another down side to these houses is that most of them only had one room which would include the bathroom, bedroom, dining room, kitchen, and any other room which was essential to life back then.
Even though it may not seem like roofs are an important part of Chinese architecture, they are very important. Roofs did not only protect residences from the elements, they also had a deeper meaning. For example, temple roofs were curved because the Buddhist believed that it helped ward off evil spirits which were believed to be straight lines. The temple's roof is also made of glazed ceramic tiles and has an overhanging cave distinguished by a graceful upward slope. The arc at which the roof turns comes from the intricate fit of rafters. They used rods of short rafters that melt together Even wealthy homes had elaborate roofs.
One perfect example of splendid roofs would be located inside the wonderful palace, The Forbidden Palace. The thirteen tombs all have roof tiles which are a brilliant yellow, green, and red. The ridges of each roof carries figurines and/or mythical creatures. The curve of each roof can be no more than a sweep and the most intricate designs on the roof are almost always pointing south-east. However, there aresome down sides to having all of these decorations of the roof. The tremendous weight could eventually bring down the entire complex. That is why the Chinese have added an additional colonnade to support the weight under the outer edges, reducing the bracket system to mere decorations. The brackets are decorated by elaborately painting them with bright colors and eye-popping designs.
In China, there is one great city which has all of the wonder and splendor of old China. This city is called the Forbidden City which is located within the inner city of Beijing. In actuality, the Forbidden City is a moated palace with many religious locations within that moat. In this section, you will learn about the many various places which make up this once mysterious city.
First, the history and basic idea of this imperial city. It is believed that this palace was built during the early Qing dynasty. It was never assumed of any national importance until the Qubilai Qan chose it as his personal seat in the year 1260 A. D. The city was established as the main capital by the Bing Emperors during the early 15th century. One thing that makes it so great lies with the lay out. Symmetry and the logical placing of all of these buildings are located everywhere.
Second, there are many structures which make this city stand out as a place of many treasures and great art. There are avenues of lions, mythical animals, camels, elephants, horses, officials, and guardians carved from single blocks of marble standing guard. They are placed right along the "Spirit Way." These structures can also be found all throughout the city and are always placed in a certain spot for a reason - sometimes for protection of evil spirits and sometimes for decoration. Another place where you could see these stone figures is on top of a tomb's roof or important building's roof . There could be a dragon, lion, etc., on any roof, or, there could be a combination of these figures. You can find some information about these roofs by going to the section labeled Roof.
Almost everyone has heard of the huge, stone wall named the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall of China was built mainly to protect the Chinese Empire from invaders from the Mongolians. This huge wall stretches over 1,500 miles and extends from Kansu in the west to the Yellow sea in the east. One problem is that we do not know the precise date in which the Great Wall was built. It is believed to be built between 246 and 209 B. C.
1. Odijk, Pamela, The Ancient World: The Chinese, Englewood Cliffs, Silver Burdett Press, 1989
2. Waterlow, Julia, Looking Into the Past: The Ancient Chinese, New York, Thomson Learning, 1994