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

Ancient Chinese architecture paid close attention to detail and style. One of the impressive features of structures built in the past included the courtyard. In this article, you will learn more about this detail, as well as other changes throughout the history of early Chinese architecture.

While the walls and roofs played a distinct role in ancient Chinese architecture, they were also proud of the layout of courtyard complexes. The style showcased a main structure that was located on the central axis of the court. To the left and right of the centralized building, structures with less significance were placed. The entire layout was symmetrical.

When compared to the open and shut style of European courtyards, the architectural style of the ancient Chinese courtyard offered different levels of scenery. As you moved about the courtyard, the visual treats shifted even after taking a couple of steps. The prospective of the courtyard would constantly change. Another impressive feature included the interior of buildings that provided a different view from every window.

Around 1500 BC, you'd see this approach as early as the Shang Dynasty. The use of curved tile roofs and long rows of pillars would continue to appear in the palaces of the Chou Dynasty and Chin Dynasty.

One of the biggest changes in Chinese architecture arrived during the Han Dynasty in 200 BC. At this time, Buddhism became the newest religion when adherents in India brought the belief system to China. Numerous Chinese Buddhists started to construct pagodas about town as a way to store sacred items. At first, the pagodas resembled the buildings in India called stupas.

Buddhism started to become increasingly important in China and continued to rise during the 500s AD. During this time period (known as the Three Kingdoms period), architects began constructing special Buddhist temples.

However, the Sui Dynasty brought more change in the early 600s AD. Ideas associated with Taoism started to become relevant once again – especially concepts of symmetry and balance. People during this time still wanted Buddhist pagodas, so the Tang Dynasty architects responded with even fancier Buddhist pagodas that were built with eight sides. An example of this style of Chinese architecture is the well-known eight-sided pagoda built out of stone called the White Pagoda at Chengde.

The Sung Dynasty saw a change in the tastes of the Chinese people. Around 1000 AD, they favored taller and thinner structures with high spires. To make the buildings more elaborate, architects fitted intricate wooden lattice around the pagodas.

The ruling dynasty around 1200 to 1300 AD in China was called the Mongol Yuan, and they are responsible for establishing fine palaces at Beijing that had numerous spacious halls. The Forbidden City – the palace for the emperors – was built during the 1400s in Ming Dynasty times. However, this did not mean that earlier Chinese architecture styles were ignored during this time. Buildings in the Forbidden City followed the styles of the Shang Dynasty, which dated back three thousand years previously.


 

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