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              Chinese Architecture
              Learn Chinese - History and Culture

               
              Chinese architecture refers to a style of architecture that has taken shape in Asia over the centuries. The structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details. Since the Tang Dynasty, Chinese architecture has had a major influence on the architectural styles of Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.

              The following article gives a cursory explanation of traditional Chinese architecture, before the introduction of Western building methods during the early 20th Century. Throughout the 20th Century, however, Western-trained Chinese architects have attempted to combine traditional Chinese designs into modern (usually government) buildings, with only limited success. Moreover, the pressure for Western-style urban development throughout contemporary China means that demand for traditional Chinese buildings is quickly disappearing.
              Features, and Classification
              There are certain features common to all Chinese architecture, regardless of specific region or use.

              The most important is the Chinese architectural emphasis on the horizontal axis, in particular the construction of a heavy platform and a large roof that floats over this base, with the vertical walls not as well emphasized. This contrasts Western architecture, which tends to grow in height and depth. Chinese architecture stresses the visual impact of the width of the buildings. The halls and palaces in the Forbidden City, for example, have rather low ceilings when compared to equivalent stately buildings in the West, but their external appearances suggest the all-embracing nature of imperial China. This of course does not apply to pagodas, which, in any case, are relatively rare. These ideas have found their way into modern Western architecture, for example through the work of J?rn Utzon (see page 221 of Weston (2002)).
              Another important feature is its emphasis on symmetry, which connotes a sense of grandeur; this applies to everything from palaces to farmhouses. A notable exception is in the design of gardens, which tends to be as asymmetrical as possible. The principle underlying the garden's composition is to create enduring flow and emmulate nature.
              Chinese buildings may be built with either red or grey bricks, but wooden structures are the most common; these are more capable of withstanding earthquakes, but are vulnerable to fire. The roof of a typical Chinese building is curved; there are strict classifications of gable types, comparable with the classical orders of European columns.

              The use of certain colours, numbers the cardinal directions in traditional Chinese architecture reflected the belief in a type of immanence, where the nature of a thing could be wholely contained in its own form, without reference to an evanescent belief. Although the Western tradition gradually developed a body of architectural literature, little was written on the subject in China, and the earliest text, the Kaogongji, was never disputed. However, ideas about cosmic harmony and the order of the city were usually interpreted at their most basic level, so a reproduction of the "ideal" city never existed. Beijing as reconstructed throughout the 15th and 16th century remains the best example of traditional Chinese town planning.

              Classification by structure
              Chinese classifications for architecture include:
              樓 (樓) lou (Multistory buildings)
              臺 tai (terraces)
              亭 ting (pavilions)
              閣 (閣) ge (Two-story pavilions)
              塔 ta (Chinese pagodas)
              軒 (軒) xuan (Verandas with windows)
              榭 xie (Pavilions or houses on terraces)
              屋 wu (Rooms along roofed corridors)


              Imperial architecture
              There were certain architectural features that were reserved solely for buildings built for the Emperor of China. One example is the use of yellow roof tiles; yellow having been the Imperial color, yellow roof tiles still adorn most of the buildings within the Forbidden City. The Temple of Heaven, however, uses blue roof tiles to symbolize the sky. The roofs are almost invariably supported by brackets, a feature shared only with the largest of religious buildings. The wooden columns of the buildings, as well as the surface of the walls, tend to be red in colour.

              The Chinese dragon, an emblem reserved for the imperial regime, were heavily used on imperial architecture - on the roofs, on the beams and pillars, and on the doors. Only the buildings used by the imperial family were allowed to have nine gan (space between two columns); only the gates used by the Emperor could have five arches, with the centre one, of course, being reserved for the Emperor himself. The ancient Chinese favored the color red. The buildings faced south because the north had a cold wind.

              Beijing became the capital of China after the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, completing the easterly migration of the Chinese capital begun since the Jin dynasty, the Ming uprising in 1368 reasserted Chinese authority and fixed Beijing as the seat of imperial power for the next five centuries. The Emperor and the Empress lived in palaces on the central axis of the Forbidden City, the Crown Prince at the eastern side, and the concubines at the back (therefore the numerous imperial concubines were often referred to as "The Back Palace Three Thousand").

              However, during the mid-Qing Dynasty, the Emperor's residence was moved to the western side of the complex. It is misleading to speak of an axis in the Western sense of a visual perspective ordering facades, rather the Chinese axis is a line of privilege, usually built upon, regulating access - there are no vistas, but a series of gates and pavilions.

              Numerology heavily influenced Imperial Architecture, hence the use of nine in much of construction (nine being the greatest number) and reason why The Forbidden City in Beijing is said to have 9,999.5 rooms - just short of the mythical 10,000 rooms in heaven. The importance of the East (the direction of the rising sun) in orienting and siting Imperial buildings is a form of solar worship found in many ancient cultures, where the notion of Ruler is affiliated with the Sun.

              Commoner architecture
              As for the commoners, be they bureaucrats, merchants or farmers, their houses tended to follow a set pattern: the centre of the building would be a shrine for the deities and the ancestors, which would also be used during festivities. On its two sides were bedrooms for the elders; the two wings of the building (known as "guardian dragons" by the Chinese) were for the junior members of the family, as well as the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen, although sometimes the living room could be very close to the center.
              Sometimes the extended families became so large that one or even two extra pairs of "wings" had to be built. This resulted in a U-shaped building, with a courtyard suitable for farm work; merchants and bureaucrats, however, preferred to close off the front with an imposing front gate. All buildings were legally regulated, and the law held that the number of storeys, the length of the building and the colours used depended on the owner's class.

              Religious architecture

              Generally speaking, Buddhist architecture follow the imperial style. A large Buddhist monastery normally has a front hall, housing the statue of a Bodhisattva, followed by a great hall, housing the statues of the Buddhas. Accommodations for the monks and the nuns are located at the two sides. Buddhist monasteries sometimes also have pagodas, which may house the relics of the Gautama Buddha; older pagodas tend to be four-sided, while later pagodas usually have eight-sides.
              Daoist architecture, on the other hand, usually follow the commoners' style. The main entrance is, however, usually at the side, out of superstition about demons which might try to enter the premise. (See feng shui.) In contrast to the Buddhists, in a Daoist temple the main deity is located at the main hall at the front, the lesser deities at the back hall and at the sides.

              中國建筑
                    中國古代建筑具有樸素淡雅的風格,主要以茅草、木材為建筑材料,以木架構為結構方式(柱、梁、枋、檁、椽等構件),按照結構需要的實際大小、形狀組合在一起。這種建筑結構方式反映了古代宗法社會結構的清晰、有序和穩定。古代建筑由于木質材料制作的梁柱不易形成巨大的內部空間,古代建筑便巧妙地利用外埠自然空間,組成庭院。庭院是建筑地基本單位,它既是封閉的,又是開放的;既是人工的,又是自然的,可以俯植花草樹木,仰觀風云日月,成為古人“天人合一”觀念的又一表現,也體現了中國人既含蓄內向,又開拓進取的民族性格。中國古代建筑品類繁盛,包括宮殿、陵園、寺院、宮觀、園林、橋梁、塔剎等。

              園林建筑

                    中國的園林建筑歷史悠久,在世界園林史上享有盛名。在3000多年前的周朝,中國就有了最早的宮廷園林。此后,中國的都城和地方著名城市無不建造園林,中國城市園林豐富多彩,在世界三大園林體系中占有光輝的地位。
                    中國園林以山水為主,其布局靈活多變,將人工美與自然美融為一體,形成巧奪天工的奇異效果。這些園林建筑源于自然而高于自然,隱建筑物于山水之中,將自然美提升到更高的境界。
                    中國園林建筑包括宏大的皇家園林和精巧的私家園林,這些建筑將山水地形、花草樹木、庭院、廊橋及楹聯匾額等精巧布設,使得山石流水處處生情,意境無窮。中國園林的境界大體分為治世境界、神仙境界、自然境界三種。

              宮殿建筑
                    宮殿建筑又稱宮廷建筑,是皇帝為了鞏固自己的統治,突出皇權的威嚴,滿足精神生活和物質生活的享受而建造的規模巨大、氣勢雄偉的建筑物。這些建筑大都金玉交輝、巍峨壯觀。
              從秦朝開始,“宮”成為皇帝及皇族居住的地方,宮殿則成為皇帝處理朝政的地方。中國宮殿建筑的規模在以后的歲月里不斷加大,其典型特征是斗拱碩大,以金黃色的琉璃瓦鋪頂,有絢麗的彩畫、雕鏤細膩的天花藻井、漢白玉臺基、欄板、梁柱,以及周圍的建筑小品。北京故宮太和殿就是典型的宮殿建筑。
                    為了體現皇權的至高無上,表現以皇權為核心的等級觀念,中國古代宮殿建筑采取嚴格的中軸對稱的布局方式:中軸線上的建筑高大華麗,軸線兩側的建筑相對低小簡單。由于中國的禮制思想里包含著崇敬祖先、提倡孝道和重五谷、祭土地神的內容,中國宮殿的左前方通常設祖廟(也稱太廟)供帝王祭拜祖先,右前方則設社稷壇供帝王祭祀土地神和糧食神(社為土地,稷為糧食),這種格局被稱為“左祖右社”。古代宮殿建筑物自身也被分為兩部分,即“前朝后寢”:“前朝”是帝王上朝治政、舉行大典之處,“后寢”是皇帝與后妃們居住生活的所在。
                    中國宮殿建筑以北京的故宮為代表。故宮規模之大、風格之獨特、陳設之華麗、建筑之輝煌,在世界宮殿建筑中極為罕見。

              寺廟
                    廟是中國佛教建筑之一。起源于印度的寺廟建筑,從北魏開始在中國興盛起來。這些建筑記載了中國封建社會文化的發展和宗教的興衰,具有重要的歷史價值和藝術價值。
                    中國古人在建筑格局上有很深的陰陽宇宙觀和崇尚對稱、秩序、穩定的審美心理。因此中國佛寺融合了中國特有的祭祀祖宗、天地的功能,仍然是平面方形、南北中軸線布局、對稱穩重且整飭嚴謹的建筑群體。此外,園林式建筑格局的佛寺在中國也較普遍。這兩種藝術格局使中國寺院既有典雅莊重的廟堂氣氛,又極富自然情趣,且意境深遠。

              陵墓
                    陵墓建筑是中國古代建筑的重要組成部分,中國古人基于人死而靈魂不滅的觀念,普遍重視喪葬,因此,無論任何階層對陵墓皆精心構筑。在漫長的歷史進程中,中國陵墓建筑得到了長足的發展,產生了舉世罕見的、龐大的古代帝、后墓群;且在歷史演變過程中,陵墓建筑逐步與繪畫、書法、雕刻等諸藝術門派融為一體,成為反映多種藝術成就的綜合體。
                    陵墓建筑是中國古建筑中最宏偉、最龐大的建筑群之一。這些陵墓建筑,一般都是利用自然地形,靠山而建;也有少數建造在平原上。中國陵園的布局大都是四周筑墻,四面開門,四角建造角樓。陵前建有甬道,甬道兩側有石人、石獸雕像,陵園內松柏蒼翠、樹木森森,給人肅穆、寧靜之感。

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