There is no architectural difference between a
Taoist, Confucian, or Buddhist temple. The Chinese built them all with the same basic
ground principal and construction as secular buildings. Beginning in the Song dynasty, a
traditionally built Chinese building stands on a raised platform. An elaborate set of
brackets and wooden columns laid on stone bases on the platform carries the weight of the
heavy tiled roof. The walls are made of light material and bear little weight. There was
only one entrance to the building, always located on the southern side.
Chinese painted the wood inside of the building for protective and decorative reasons. The
walls and columns, if not carved, were usually painted red, the platform colored white,
the roof tiles of the yellow or green, and finally the brackets would be colored green and
blue. The Imperial Palace in Beijings great Forbidden City shares its place-style
architecture as well as decorative features with the Temple of Confucius in Qufu (both
built during the Ming Dynasty),
and the Song Dynasty temple of Jinci, near Taiyuan.
Some fabulous examples of Chinese architecture are the few remaining
Buddhist temples. Unfortunately, the Chinese tore down many for urban development spaces
or they just fell apart due to years of neglect. The tower of one remaining Yung-ning-su
dynasty (6th century) temple near Toyang is nearly 400 feet high which was erected in the.
However, there is not much information that available about these towers.
little information is available indicates that the most distinctive kinds of Buddhist
buildings in China are the stupa or pagoda. Originally made in India, these buildings
symbolize the relationship between heaven and earth was mainly used to house sacred
objects. As for the architectural style, these temples take the form of a storied tower,
or, more rarely, an upturned bowl. As the centuries passed, however, the shape of these
temples took new forms. In the second and third century, the Chinese constructed them
mostly of wood. Their shape took the form of a tetragon during the 10th Century Sung
dynasty. In the next dynasty, Tang decided to have the stupa towers shaped into an
octagon. The number of stories varied with each of the buildings. The height decreased
regularly from the base to the summit, but everything else remained the same.
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
3. Blunden, Caroloine; Elvin, Mark, Cultural Atlas of China, New
York, Equinox, 1983