Features of Ancient Chinese Architecture

Last Update: 2008-8-24 21:39:00; By honey

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Ancient Chinese Architecture
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The chief building material of ancient Chinese buildings is wood. The components are mainly columns, beams, and purlins that are connected by tenons and mortises. As a result, the wooden structure is quite flexible. The ancient Chinese wooden building possesses a unique design found only in China, termed dougong (i.e., a system of brackets inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam), and constitutes one of the most important features in ancient Chinese architecture.


Ancient Chinese architecture is highly praised for its elegant profile and intricate structure. For example, the quintessential Chinese roof with its overhanging eaves characterized by upturned corners and colorful tiles whose shape varies from building to building contributes to an effect of architectural balance and proportion. These qualities, combined with the roof's unique and colorful tiled exterior, not only satisfy a functional need, they also contribute to the overall effect of the quintessential Chinese roof as a thing of charm and beauty.


In China, the construction of palaces, temples and ordinary houses generally forms a unit, or building complex. Any given structure within the building complex occupies a place and a function within the whole – indeed, the external function of a building determines its relative placement within the hierarchical whole – while the inner organization, or compartmentalization, of any given structure follows the inherent logic of the internal functions of the building. Most of the individual structures within such a building complex 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 of ancient China's Taoist past.


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. Some buildings employ multiple, bold colors to make a strong contrast, while others employ softer colors to make a statement of elegant simplicity. Besides the stress on colors, 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. For example, carved beams, rafters painted in various patterns, inscribed boards, couplets hung on pillars and decorative screen walls combine with murals to enhance the overall beauty of a building's interior, while stone lions and ornamental columns as well as flower beds combine to enhance the building's external beauty.


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