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Chinese Architecture

traditional Chinese eaves

China has a unique and time-honored architectural system. From ancient traditional timberwork to modern skyscrapers, Chinese architecture has always served as a carrier of Chinese culture.

Ancient Chinese Architecture

It is rare for ancient Chinese architecture built before the Ming and Qing dynasties to remain, due to its mostly timberwork construction.

Unlike Western architecture with its distinctive periodic characteristics, ancient Chinese architectural styles did not change over the centuries.

On the other hand, the styles in China are obviously characterized by the region, nationality, religion, and functional application. Read more about Ancient Chinese Architecture.

The Forbidden City

Features of Ancient Chinese Architecture

  • The majority of ancient Chinese architecture was timberwork.
  • Single-story buildings dominated throughout much of China.
  • Chinese buildings were strong, elegant, and flexible thanks to the timber-saving bracketing system.
  • Feng shui served as the guideline for most ancient Chinese constructions.

3 Representative Ancient Chinese Architecture Types

Imperial Palaces

As symbols of the imperial reign, most Chinese imperial palaces were splendid and solemn. The Forbidden City, the most famous extant imperial palace in China, is the climax of over 2,000 years of palace design.

Qiao's Grand CourtyardQiao's Grand Courtyard in Pingyao.

Residential Houses

Traditional Chinese residences have a longer history than imperial architectures. As carriers of national symbolism, they reflect the lifestyles of the masses.

Besides that, the buildings differ regionally, such as siheyuan (courtyard residences) in Beijing, cave dwellings in Henan, tulou (round earthen "castles") in Fujian, and stilt houses in Yunnan.

Chinese Landscape Gardens

Chinese gardens are a special aspect of traditional Chinese culture and art.

In China, a garden is more than an area of green accompanying buildings. It's an area harmoniously mixing natural scenery with man-made features: architecture, painting, calligraphy, and horticulture.

Read more on China's Top 6 Beautiful Gardens.

Modern Chinese Architecture

sanlitunSanlitun in Beijing.

During the period from the start of the Opium War in 1840 to the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Chinese architecture witnessed a blending of Chinese and Western styles.

Although the traditional Chinese architectural system still took the dominant role, builders made some breaks with the traditional architectural style, building business areas with a combination of Chinese and Western elements.

Read more on Modern Chinese Architecture.

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