The Main Trademark Of Traditional Chinese Architecture
Architecture, by definition, is the art or practice of designing and building structures, especially habitable ones. However, architecture is so much more than it is generalized to be. It isn’t just about the design and construction of buildings; they are a manifestation of the human life during a specific time and location in society. According to William Miller, “Traditional buildings respond to a multitude of concerns relating to the particulars of place: geography, climate, economy, available materials and skills, cultural conventions, mythical beliefs and metaphysical aspirations.” To put it simply, architecture is a reflection of the human life in society during that specific time period and location. This is particularly true for Chinese Architecture since it is vastly different from other types around the world. It has its own distinct style which has been shaped by the dominant religious philosophies, but the main ones being Confucianism and Taoism.
In what ways have these religious and philosophical ideologies influenced the elements incorporated in architectural designs in China? The main trademark of traditional Chinese architecture is its cultural stability; throughout the history of the country it has astonishingly endured and kept its traditional values. One concept that is continuously incorporated into Chinese architects is the Taoist theory of Feng-Shui. Taoism was established around 500 BCE by a man named Lao-Tzu, whose teachings and fundamental values were the basis of the religion. Feng-Shui is an integral part of Taoism and through the utilization of it, Chinese architects achieved a perfect balance between man and nature. In the past, Chinese architects specifically designed their structures to match the natural environment surrounding it. It was believed that if buildings or construction disturbed the pure harmony than it should be torn down or not built at all.
Feng-Shui analyzes the relationship between a building and the scenery around it to detect sites with a favorable circulation of life energy, or ch`i. It is used to make physical adjustments to improve the naturally occurring ch`i of the atmosphere and environment. The principles of Feng-Shui are shown in The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. This temple is one of the most significant and remarkable monuments in Chinese history. In ancient times, the ruling emperors would use the temple to hold ceremonies to pray to the gods for good weather and abundant harvests for the year. The intricate composition of the interior of the temple is made entirely of wood. According to the ideologies of Feng-Shui, wood provides a natural aura to the atmosphere to keep it connected to the environment. Furthermore, inside the temple there are four grand columns, each representing a season, which heightens the essence of being surrounded by nature.
At the top of The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, there is an area known as the Imperial Heavenly Vault and it is completely made up of blue tiles from floor to ceiling. Blue, in relation to Feng-Shui, has various interpretations. It can represent knowledge, but in this instance, blue corresponds with the sky and heavens. It is believed that blue was selected so the visitors of will have the sensation that the heavens are looking down upon them. (The The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests in Beijing, China) In Northern China, lies a colossal wall that sprawls across curved mountains. This wall is famously called The Great Wall of China. Construction began in the 7th Century BC to separate China from the Mongolians, an enemy neighbor tribe. The wall was officially finished in 221 BC, connecting all sides of the wall together. The design of The Great Wall of China implements elements of Feng-Shui. The wall is entirely enclosed by nature and greenery and solely composed of stone blocks, making the wall a pure piece of natural architecture.
Practicers of Feng-Shui believe that the main philosophy of is that the Earth is filled with energy and alive. Additionally, it is thought that there are locations with bad and positive energy. To discover locations with positive energy, one must look at the balance between the various shapes and edges of the organic pieces of the land. In Feng-Shui, sharp or jagged lines are considered unfavorable while round shapes are looked upon as fortunate; the shape of an object affects its energy level. That is why the energy level of the Feng-Shui of The Great Wall is auspicious, due to its connection with its surrounding nature. The energy of The Great Wall of China is incredible since the wall’s path winds around the mountains in a smooth, curved pattern because it follows the natural arches of the peaks.
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