Draft:Chinese traditional house

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Chinese architectures have experienced many evolutions, and become more diversified. The initial simple house in ancient China is made from wood and mud, and gradually expand to fantastic palaces with pretty roofs. Both simple house and palace represent intuitively the traditional Chinese culture and national characteristics in the past.Chinese architectures have experienced many evolutions, and become more diversified. The initial simple house in ancient China is made from wood and mud, and gradually expand to fantastic palaces with pretty roofs. Both simple house and palace represent intuitively the traditional Chinese culture and national characteristics in the past.


Traditional architectures have their different features, but also common features.


Hitherto, “Fengshui” has already completely developed by Taoism, and has intensive impression on Chinese culture and architecture. [1] Meanwhile, “Fengshui” has imposed on Chinese architecture as soon as its system become mature.

There are a few impacts of “Fengshui” on architecture. Firstly, “Chi” is a vital concept of “Fengshui”, the principle of “Chi” is always applied on the design of gardens. For example, the most important thing in house design is to concentrate on the significant features of nature so as to indicate the principle of “Chi”, rather than imitate every detail of the nature scenery. By doing these, owners of houses believes that the “Chi” in their bodies will circulate more smoothly [1]. Simultaneously, “Fengshui” also has impacts on the location selected and orientation of houses, and people believe that it can be used to find a location that can bring lucks to householders[2]. For instance, in the principle of “Fengshui”, houses in mountains area should be toward to spare space and backed to mountainside or bosket, rather than facing to southern area randomly like other houses in different landforms [1]. The reason for doing this is that the geometric problems is liable to appear when houses located in mountain area choose to face toward southern space [1].


In general, most Chinese traditional architectures have a common characteristic in their group layout, which is emphasizing the unity of nature and human, as well as people oriented.

Besides the common characteristic, there are also various layout among different traditional architectures. Some of them have similar layout, some are totally different.

In terms of different categories, Chinese ancient buildings have palace, temple, Siheyuan, and garden buildings. In these buildings, palace, temple and Siheyuan have more similar layouts. The layouts of these types of buildings are symmetrical and tidy, with distinct priorities. Every independent courtyard is bundled with a central axis, which indicates a rigorous ethnic temperament. However, the garden has significant different layout from others. The layout of gardens is flexible, and the natural atmosphere is pursued.


In Feudal society, emperors have highest and unique power. Therefore, the requirement of emperors must be satisfy. In this case, emperors prefer to build lots of splendid palace to enjoy their arrogant and extravagant life and defend their majesty. From Qin dynasty, which is the beginning of Feudal society, palaces started to conclude a groups of buildings for emperor living and working.


So far, the largest, most complete and most beautiful palace building preserved is the Forbidden City. Forbidden City as the imperial palace for two dynasties covers 72,000 square meters, and involves many walls, pavilions and towers [3]. At the same time, the Forbidden City inherits and present the traditional architecture form, and even applies the traditional form in a larger scale. Like most palaces in the past, the Forbidden City follows the principle in “ZhouYi” that indicates a well-designed palace can promote the economic development and maintain stable society. In terms of the structure of the Forbidden City, it was built along a 7500-meters line which is a north-south axis [3]. Moreover, Tiananmen is the start point, which is regard as southern entrance of the Forbidden City. Behind Tiananmen, there is the Meridian Gate consisting of five small gates. Through the Meridian Gate, inner city will appear. The first part is “Three Great Hall”, which concludes “The Hall of Supreme Harmony”, “The Hall of Middle Harmony” and “The Hall of Preserving Harmony”. These three halls were used to hold some important activities, such as great celebration, examination. As for the western and eastern sides, they are Temple of Heaven and Temple of Agriculture respectively, which are used to pray good harvest. For the further eastern part, it is Literary Brilliance, while the Hall of Military Eminence is located at further western area. The palaces used by emperor and empress living are in the centre of the Forbidden City. The rest palaces and buildings are all set in a symmetrical layout along the north-south axis.

Colour usage in palace

The design of palaces in the Forbidden City is also following the traditional palace style. Bold colour is used to show the majesty. For example, yellow is regard as the producer of all life, and is very sacred. Thus, only emperors can use yellow in ancient China, which is used to indicate that emperors are lord of everything [4]. Yellow roof almost occupied all the Forbidden City, and only a few roofs of small buildings are grey.  Besides yellow, red is also likely to be used in palace, as red stands for power, lucks and honours. Therefore, walls, doors, timbers, crossbeams and window frames are always painted with red in Forbidden City.

From the entire architectural art of the Forbidden City complex, it embodies the special style and outstanding achievements of ancient Chinese architectural art and is one of the world's outstanding architectural complexes.


Sheyuan picture

Siheyuan is another representative traditional building in China, which is composed by a large enclosing courtyard with rooms. Siheyuan is a traditional residence in the Beijing area and even in North China [5]. In ancient China, people in different classes have strict limitation in the size of Siheyuan. Royal nobles can always enjoy larger Siheyuan.

The basic feature of the courtyard is that the houses and courtyards are arranged symmetrically according to the north-south axis, which is similar to palace. The yard is located in north and facing to south, and divided into inner and outer court. The gate of outer court is generally set at the southeast corner. Also, there is a shadow walls built in the door, and people outside cannot see the activities in the courtyard. The rooms for guests and slaves are located in the west side of outer court, as well as kitchen and bathroom. [6]There is a door located in the north of outer yard, which leads to inner court.[6] Meanwhile, the main room is the largest room, and located on the central axis.[6] It is used for host celebration and entertaining guests. Moreover, the rooms of elders are linked to the main rooms. In front of the way that linking the main room and elder living room, there is always study room. Behind the main room, there are many small utility rooms. Simultaneously, the room on eastern and western side is for the younger generation of the living.[6] A typical traditional Sieyuan is in Huguosi Hutong, which concludes many gates and separate structure [7]. At the same time, It used to be the accommodation of famous Beijing opera singer whose name is Lanfang Mei.

The composition of the courtyard is unique. Its courtyard is wide and sloppy, the four houses are independent, and the verandas are connected to each other, and the living is very convenient; the closed house makes the courtyard have a strong privacy, and the door is closed from the heavens and the earth; in the courtyard, the four doors open to the courtyard. The family is beautiful and beautiful, and the spacious courtyard can also plant trees, feed birds, raise fish, and stack stones. The residents enjoy the beauty of nature.

Although Siheyuan is a residential building, it contains profound cultural connotations and is the carrier of Chinese traditional culture.


Typical Tulou

Tulou is very special as one of Chinese traditional architectures. It is only concentrated in a few area, such as Fujian Province. Also, the volume of Tulou is much larger than other traditional buildings, which can contain 800 people simultaneously.

Inside looking of Tulou

Typically, Tulou has several floors with inward-looking, circle or square forms. Also, most Tulou only has one entrance, and windows are generally set above the first floor. The reason for one gate set and window location is to prevent the invasion from enemies in the ancient. Besides these features, Tulou is also known as “a little kingdom of family” or “bustling small city”, as it always appear as a unit of a whole clan. [5] Meanwhile, the structure of Tulou is supported by a thick rammed earth wall, and the interior is made of wood frame, which is mainly composed of a bucket structure. As the floor rises, the thickness of the wall gradually decreases. For example, the base floor is typically 3 meters, while the first floor is half thick of the base floor with 1.5 meters. [5] Therefore, kitchens are always in the first floor, storage rooms are in the second floor, and bedrooms are above third floor. At the same time, the ancestral hall and private school are placed in the center area, because Tulou always contains a huge group people, as the figure shown in the right side.


Chinese traditional temple architecture intends to blur the interior and exterior space, and pay attention to the mutual transformation of indoor and outdoor space. The temples, doors and windows, pavilions and verandas are all open to the side, forming a flexible and transparent effect that is also imaginary, real, and stagnation. The space consciousness contained in it is vague and changing. This is in harmony with the Chinese heaven and man, the conversion of yin and yang. There is a deep connection between the cosmologies. "The Quartet goes up and down the universe, and the ancient times come and go." The space and time are infinite, that is, the universe. Moreover, there are many types of temples of different usages in China, which are Confucian Temple, City God Temple and Military Temple respectively [8]. Meanwhile there are different usage of temples, such as education, pray and celebration.

Symmetric structure of temple

Traditional temples in China are always located in the central of city. Furthermore, regardless of the size of the site, the Chinese Buddhist temple has certain regularity in its architectural layout: a flat square, with a mountain gate-----Tianwang Hall-----Daxiong Hall-----The Temple Lord for the Bodhisattva Hall-----Fatang -----Zhangjing Building, this north-south axis, organizes space, symmetrical and rigorous. Also, many temples conclude courtyard with a small bowl to burn paper money. Along the central axis, the front and rear buildings are turned and joined together, just like a piece of music that is vivid. The beauty of the architecture of Chinese temples responds to the echoes between the mountains, the pines, the flowing water, the temples and the pavilions. The subtle warmth of Chinese classical culture shows the harmony, tranquility and charm of the combination. The roofs of temple are always yellow and green with some symbols of religion figures. The picture in right side has well presented the symmetry of Chinese traditional temple.


There are many famous classical landscape gardens remaining in China, most of which are relics of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The essence of Chinese classical gardens is concentrated in Jiangnan.

The main idea of landscape design is pursuing nature, and making visitors feel that they are in nature. First of all, it is to use artificial power to build natural scenery, and to achieve the artistic realm of “some people do, from heaven”. Therefore, in addition to a large number of buildings in the garden, such as towers, pathway and pavilions, it is necessary to cut the pool to open mountains, plant flowers and plant trees, artificially imitate natural landscapes, or use ancient landscape paintings as a blueprint, and participate in the poetic mood to form many picturesque scenes. Therefore, Chinese classical gardens are a combination of architecture, mountain ponds, gardening, painting, sculpture and even poetry. This feature of Chinese classical gardens is mainly determined by the nature of Chinese gardens. Gardening, in addition to meeting the needs of the enjoyment of living, it is more important to pursue the beautiful scenery of the mountains, in order to achieve the purpose of living in the city and still enjoy the interest of the mountains.

Borrowing View

Meanwhile, the artistic technique of “borrowing the scenery” is a traditional method in which Chinese classical gardens break through space limitations and enrich the landscape. It is a clever introduction of scenery outside or outside the garden to the garden to become part of the landscape. This technique is very common in Chinese classical gardens and has high achievements. For example, the view of Beisi Ta in Humble Administration Garden is borrowed[9] . It can be seen from the picture, that the tower in the middle is the viewing that borrowed.


  1. ^ a b c d Chao, Chungsheng (1989). ASPECTS OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE HOUSES AND GARDENS (PDF). Sydney: University of Sydney. pp. 50, 54, 136.
  2. ^ Groves, Derham (2011). Some similarities between the feng-shui of Chinese joss houses in Australia and postmodern architecture (PDF). Melbourne: the University of Melbourne Library. p. 55.
  3. ^ a b Chun, Jiang; Fan, Yu (2008). Cultural Metaphors in China: A Visual Experience of Hierarchy and Status Symbols (PDF). China: University of International Business and Economics. p. 74.
  4. ^ Gao, Jie (Winter 2016). "Symbolism in the Forbidden City-The Magnificent Design, Distinct Colors, and Lucky Numbers of China's Imperial Palace" (PDF). Education About ASIA. 21: 3.
  5. ^ a b c Sun, Feifei (2013). Chinese Climate and Vernacular Dwellings. Kingston upon Hull. p. 167. ISSN 2075-5309.
  6. ^ a b c d Hays, Jeffrey (July 2015). "HOMES IN CHINA: TRADITIONAL HOMES AND MAO-ERA HOUSING". http://factsanddetails.com. Archived from the original on 2008. External link in |website= (help)
  7. ^ KNAPP, Ronald G (2009). "Courtyard Houses (Siheyuan)" (PDF). Berkshire Encyclopedia of China. 5: 509 – via Berkshire Publishing Group LLC.
  8. ^ Hays, Jeffrey (September 2016). "CHINESE TEMPLES". http://factsanddetails.com/. External link in |website= (help)
  9. ^ Xu, Yiwen; BURLEY, JON BRYAN; MACHEMER, PATRICIA; ALLEN, APRIL. A Cluster Analysis Comparison of Classical Chinese Gardens with Modern Chinese Gardens. East Lansing,: Michigan State University. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-61804-338-2.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)

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