Famous Ancient Buildings

Last Update: 2008-3-28; By chinatravelservice

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Big Goose Pagoda
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TOPImperial Palace

In order to consolidate the emperors' control, highlight the dignity of the imperial power, and satisfy their extravagant material lives, grand palaces were always built in large scale. For thousands of years, successive emperors spare no labor, material or money to build majestic palaces for them. Those solemn and magnificent palaces fully exhibit the wisdom and creative power of the Chinese people.

Forbidden City

As the biggest and most integrated existing building complex in China, it was the imperial palace for the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In 1988, the Imperial Palace was listed as World Cultural Heritage by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

TOPAltars and Temples

Altars and temples occupy an important place in ancient Chinese Architecture. They are ceremonial sites between religious and non-religious buildings and are served for offer sacrifices to the heaven, the earth, the sun, the moon, the country, mountains, emperor and scholars of the past, as well as ancestors.

Altars and temples occupy an important place in ancient Chinese Architecture. They are ceremonial sites between religious and non-religious buildings and are served for offer sacrifices to the heaven, the earth, the sun, the moon, the country, mountains, emperor and scholars of the past, as well as ancestors. 

Temple of Heaven

Located several kilometers distance on the southeast away from the Imperial Palace, the Temple of Heaven is a huge altar for the heaven. The total area of the Temple of Heaven is 2.7 million square meters, which is four times as large as the Forbidden City.

Confucian Temple

The Confucian Temple locates in the center of Qufu City. It is famous for the oriental architectural features and large scale. Together with the Imperial Palace in Beijing and Mountain Resort in Chengde of Heibei Province, the Confucian Temple is one of the three great building complexes in ancient China.

Temple of Guanyu

The Temple of God of Warrior is also called Temple of Guanyu because it is a place to worship Guanyu, a famous warrior in the Three Kingdoms Period. Guanyu was greatly praised and was granted titles by emperors after the Song Dynasty for many times. He was regarded as a good example of man with faith, filial piety, justice and moral integrity. So he is called God of Warrior.


Mausoleums make a very important part in ancient Chinese architectures. In ancient times, people in China believe that the sprit dose not die with the body. They attached importance to the funeral so much that every class of the society designed the mausoleums elaborately. In the long history, Chinese mausoleum buildings have well developed. The large scales of kings' and queens' mausoleums are rarely seen in the world. The mausoleums are integrated with various arts, such as painting, calligraphy, carving and so on. Therefore, mausoleum architecture is a synthesis of achievements in many artistic fields. The overall arrangements of Chinese mausoleums always include walls around, doors opened to four directions, as well as turrets on four corners. There are

Mausoleums are the most majestic and also the biggest building complexes in ancient China. These mausoleums are always built back on the mountains; some of them are also on the plains. There is usually a paved path leading to the tomb with stone persons and stone beast on both sides. Many trees, usually pines and cypresses, are planted around the mausoleums, which add to the atmosphere of solemn, respectful and quiet.

Ming Dynasty Tombs

The Ming Dynasty Tombs locate in a small basin of 40 square kilometers at the mountain foot of Mount Tianshou in Changping County, Beijing Municipality. There was a wall surrounding the tomb area. The front door opens to south with the Boa Mountain and the Tiger Valley standing on both sides, looking like a dragon and a tiger guarding the gate. The most famous tombs are the Chang Tombs for the majestic land buildings and the Ding Tomb, whose underground palace was excavated. The Ming Tombs were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in August 2003.

TOPCity defense buildings

The word of "cheng" (city) has its specific meaning in ancient times. It means the city walls used for military defense. Such city defense buildings consist of two city walls. The inner wall is called "cheng", while the outer wall is called "guo". So they were also called "cheng guo". For many ancient city defense buildings, the city walls are not the only construction. There are also moats surrounding the walls. In the past times, the moat was called "chi", and the inner city was called "geng". The city wall and the moat are called "cheng chi" as a whole. The ancient cities had an integrated architectural system, for example, there are 2 to 3 gates to the city. (Big cities usually have more gates. The Beijing inner city has 9 gates in the Ming and Qing Dynasties). There is always a tower over the city gate. The number of the tower is always the same as that of the gate. There are also four watchtowers at each corner of the city wall. In order to reinforce the city wall, a section of the city wall, also known as "ma mian" is projected to the outside in every certain distance. In the inner side of the city wall, cavalries with their horses can climb up the wall by the horse path. As the necessary way for the citizens and armies to enter and exit the city, drawbridges or stone bridges over the moats are built. In a word, all the buildings described as above are indispensable parts in a defending system of a city. Such city defense buildings had played an important role in guarding against external aggression and holding the ground in ancient time when attack were limited to short-distance weapons, such as swords, spears and cannons. Many cities escaped from being occupied for several months or years by closing the city gate even confronting formidable enemies.

Famous city walls and moats

Among the over 200 cities which has been capital of China in its long history, the ones experienced many dynasties and have more influences are the Seven Ancient Capitals in China, namely, Anyang, Xi'an, Kaifeng, Luoyang, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Beijing. Pingyao old town in Shanxi and Lijiang old town in Yunnan were registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 for the unique folk cultural characters.

Xi'an old city wall

Based on the city wall in the Sui and Tang Dynasties in the 6th century, construction of the 13,912 meters long wall of Xi'an commenced in the Hongwu Era of the Ming Dynasty (1370 to 1378 AD). The wall is 12 meters tall, 18 meters wide on base and 15 meters on top. The thickness of the wall is superior to the height, so the wall is very steady. A ring city wall park was constructed since 1983. Now, tourists can visit the integrated defense system including moat, bridge, arrow buildings, main building, watchtowers, city gate, and so on, where they have a general view about ancient battles.

Pingyao old town

Being the best preserve old town in China, Pingyao locates in the middle of Shanxi Province. Known as Gutao in history, it is said to be the territory granted to the Yao Emperor. The county was developed on the basis of the town in Xuan Emperor in the Western Zhou Dynasty. The main roads in the town are cross-shaped. Shops were built along the roads while the residences are in the back streets. The big constructions, such as official building, altar and temple are laid out according to the feudal tradition. There are still 400 well preserved traditional rectangular courtyards among the 3,997 total in this old town, most of which have history of over 100 years. Pingyao old town was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in December, 1997.

TOPGreat Wall

As the world's greatest man-made structure, the Great Wall is a Chinese fortification built from the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period. When the First Emperor of Qin unified China, the walls are connected. The majestic project of heavy expenditure is still a wonder of world. Time has witnessed vicissitudes but the great project still remains. When you climb up the Wall, you can not only admire the majestic appearance of the Great Wall among the lofty mountains and high ranges, but also feel the great intelligence of the Chinese people.

TOPIrrigation Systems

Dujiangyan Irrigation System

The Dujiangyan Irrigation System is a historical Chinese irrigation and flood control system constructed around 250 BC by governor of Shu, Li Bing and his son, 56 km west of present day Chengdu, which it still supplies with water. This irrigation system diverts part of the Minjiang River into an aqueduct leading to Chengdu.

Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal

The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, also known as Grand Canal of China, is the largest ancient canal or artificial river in the world.


Among towers and pavilions in history, most which enjoy a high reputation are essentially structures for sightseeing, built in scenic areas, Such as the Huanghe (Yellow Crane) Tower, the Tengwang Tower and Yueyang Tower, the three famous towers south of the Yangtze River Sites for such towers are often in sections beside rivers or lakes bordering cities for the convenience of looking afar, and for closer ties with cities-making it easy to "capture the sights", the size and pattern are based on careful conception, the structure and nature acting in harmonious coordination with each other, the tower itself also increases the beauty of nature and becomes an object of appreciation, called "ChengJing"(Established Scenery).

TOPBuddhism Pagodas

As a kind of unique architecture rooted in India, pagodas in China were constructed since the Buddhism was introduced to China. The pagodas, generally known as the carrier of Buddhism culture, found its integration in the traditional Chinese architecture and the design was greatly changed. The nationalization of Indian pagoda demonstrates the good virtues of the Chinese of both highly intelligent and willing to incorporate things of diverse culture.The most well-known Buddhism Pagoda is the Big Goose Wild Pagoda in Xi'an

TOPOld Bridges

Zhaozhou Bridge: Since it was build, this bridge has withstood 10 floods, eight battles, and many earthquakes including a 7.2 degree earthquake in 1966. Yet, the support structure remains intact and the bridge is still in use.

Lugou Bridge (Marco Polo Bridge): Lugou Bridge was constructed in the 29th year of the Dading Era in the Jin Dynasty (1189 AD) and completed in the 3rd year of the Mingchang Era (1192 AD). The bridge is 266.5 meters long. It has 501 stone lions (another saying is that it has 502) on the balustrades and 11 arches. The bridge has a history of more than 800 years.


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