Features of Ancient Chinese Architecture

These four features summarize Chinese architecture before the modern era.

Flexible Structure

the forbidden cityThe Eave of the Ancient Palace in the Forbidden City

The ancient buildings use wood as chief material. And the components are mainly columns, beams, and purlins, which are connected by tenons and mortises. As a result, the wooden structure is quite flexible. There is also a unique design only found in China named Dougong (a system of brackets inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam), which is one of the most important character in ancient Chinese architecture.

Wonderful and Elegant Appearance

The ancient Chinese architectures are greatly praised for the elegant profile and varied structure, for example, the overhanging eaves, upward roof corners, and different shapes of roofs. The unique outside has not only fit and satisfid the practical functional need of building, but also exhibited its wonderful appearance. It is a good model of a combination of practicality and beauty.

Regular Layout

temple of heavenTemple of Heaven

In China, buildings such as palaces, temples and folk houses are basically in a combined complex. The building complex can be divided into buildings centered on different courtyards and then into single rooms. Most of the buildings strictly follow the axis-centered principle with symmetrical wings. So the buildings look symmetrical on the left and right sides. Such layout of ancient Chinese architectures has reflected the aesthetic standard of harmony and symmetry in ancient China.

Gorgeous Ornaments

Architects in ancient China pay special attention to the ornaments either from a whole or in a specific part. They use different colors or paintings according to the particular need or local customs. Some buildings use multiple colors to make strong contrast. Others use soften color to make it simple but elegant. Besides the stress on the colors, ancient buildings attach the same weight on decorations, furnishings inside and ornament outside. Carved beams, painted rafters, various patterns, inscribed boards, couplets hung on the pillars, and wall paintings are used to add to the colorful and beautiful style. Stone lions, screen walls, ornamental columns, as well as flowers are used in the outside of a building to make ornaments.

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