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Ancient Chinese Architecture I
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  8/4/12
By: Yona Williams

When it comes to ancient architecture, the Romans and Greeks are often highlighted for their innovation and style. However, the ancient Chinese are also responsible for creating impressive buildings and structures throughout history. In this article, you will learn about some of the different types of architecture from the ancient Chinese past.

The long history of Chinese architecture included a variety of styles that featured timberwork in combination with stone carvings, bucket arches, and other earthy construction techniques. The industrious people behind building in China are responsible for bringing to life the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.

The majority of people living during ancient Chinese days could not afford to live in a fancy residence and made homes out of small houses fashioned out of mudbrick. These dwellings only had one room with a dirt floor. This way of living is similar to the way many people lived in the Roman Empire days. Residents in Northern China would situated the doors of their houses to face south so that they could avoid the chill of the north wind.

The wealthy resided in more elaborate homes – some just as nice as the impressive temples and palaces that were constructed in the past. However, no matter what building was constructed – all of the Chinese architecture followed a set of strict rules and regulations regarding their design. The Chinese buildings of the past stayed in line with the principles and concepts of Taoism and other Chinese philosophies.

One of the primary ideas of building design was that structure should be long and low rather than tall. Roofs were built so that columns held them up instead of the walls – they looked like they were hovering over the ground. Another design idea focuses on the symmetry of buildings – both sides of a structure needed to be the same so that they were balanced – just like the teachings of Taoism. These styles would continue on throughout the years.

The timberwork of an ancient Chinese structure plays an important role in construction. The framework of housing is mainly comprised of wooden posts, beams, joists and lintels that provide the strength of a structure. Walls only serve as a separation of rooms that do not add to the weight of the entire house. For instance, if the walls collapse – a house will still stand on its own. This is a unique feature of ancient Chinese homes that does not appear in other styles of architecture.

Using wood in building homes also opened up the different possibilities of décor. There is more painting incorporated into the overall structure of the home. Roofs show a colored glaze while windows may have impressive appliqué designs. The wooden pillars could be decorated with lovely floral patterns. All of these characteristics of ancient Chinese architecture highlight the elevated style of design of architects at this time.


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