CHAPTER 9 A Sumptuous
Architecture Treasure
----- A Panorama of Ancient
Chinese Architecture
? Human involvement in architecture has been
enduring from the Neolithic Age to the
present day in the long run,Over millenniums
of the Paleolithic Age,human ancestors
lived on hunting,fishery,and nomadism,
and were compelled to linger in trees and
caves in search of the shelter from natural
disasters and beasts‘ assaults,Toward the
arrival of the Neolithic Age man learned to
engage in stock raising and farming,and
settled down by digging caves and building
up simple residence with twigs and lumber,
thus commencing their architectural creation,
During over 3,000-year course of the feudalist
society Chinese ancient architecture had
gradually formulated its unique system coupled
with a considerable progress respecting urban
planning,gardening,civil housing and
construction technique,In 221 B.C having
leveled to ground the neighboring six kingdoms
the First Emperor of Chin established the first
united feudal empire in China,whereupon
mobilizing as full resources as possible in his
domain to embark upon a massive-scale
construction campaign,In the listing of high-
prestige buildings are enrolled such as the
A‘fang Palace,the imperial mausoleums,the
Great wall and Dujiangyan water-conservancy
project,succeeded by a hoard of immortal
masterpieces in various dynasties,
I,Sequence of Chinese
Ancient Architecture
Chinese architecture has approximately
coursed through the following phases,
? The primitive period and the Chin Dynasty
(before 200 B.C) was deficient in both
historical literature and tangible evidence;
though scores of the ruins of the city states
and imperial palaces have been confirmed
yet they are on the verge of further
archeological excavation.
? The Western-Eastern Han Dynasties (204
B.C-220 A.D) survived over four hundred
years,a thriving era in architectural
undertakings,when there remained an
abundance of historical records hereof and
the relics unearthed such as coffin
chambers and aisles,which exhibit a
glimpse of the frameworks.
? The Wei-Jin-Southern-Northern Dynasties
(220-590) beheld a rampant construction
campaign of palaces and Buddhist abbeys
thanks to the gigantic impetus of the
exuberating Buddhism,As regards technical
process,―Greco-Buddhist style‖,a substitute
for Han style,was absorbed into decorative
threads and engravings of flowers and trees,
birds,beasts and human figurines;
remarkable accomplishments were achieved
in rock grottoes,Buddhist pagodas and
imperial mausoleums.
? During the Sui-Tang Dynasties (590—
906) Sui was stationed in the capital
Chang‘an,assuming an extensive-scope
civil construction,The succeeding Tang,
with an aid of the political stability and
the prosperous diffusion of Buddhism
and Daoism,witnessed the full-fledged
building technology in palaces and
? After the revolt in the reign of Emperor
Gao quantities of architectural treasures
had been demolished to pieces except
the brick-stone pagodas,certain
grottoes and graveyards,The stone-
arch bridges in Sui and the wood-framed
Buddhist temples at the close of Tang
were rated as the most valuable relics
therein,The building style of Tang
appeared robust in structure and soigné
in technique,an imposing sight in the
history of Chinese architecture
? The Five Kingdoms-Song-Liao-Jurchen
period (906-1280 was paralleled by the
workmanship that took on a trend from the
intricate to the frail-looking in erection of
palaces in the mid-Song; despite them being
shattered in fires and earthquakes,Buddhist
abbeys or pagodas built in a fixed regular
and punctilious manner are equally available
everywhere in good standing in the northern
provinces,A book entitled Stereotypes in
Civil Engineering has been in reserve as a
testimony to the vicissitudes in this respect
? The Yuan-Ming-Qing Dynasties (1280-1912)
with the capital instituted in Beiping (Beijing
or Peking) saw the peerless scale in
imperial palaces and urban constructions
except with the same building stereotype as
before,The entry of Tibetan-style structures
at the turn of Ming-Qing and the entry of
Western-model matches at the decline of
Qing caused a partial abolition of the
contemporary architectural standards
whereas the Western rivals made debut in
certain Chinese metropolises,
? The Republic of China (1912-1949) was
challenged by a retarded progress hereof
while European or American-model was
exploiting the markets in some commercial
port cities,a western-oriented morale in
? Considering stereotypes,Chinese ancient
architecture can be categorized as follows,
? ―Imperial palaces,office buildings and
official residences,
? ―Defense buildings such as city walls,city
gateways,forts,fortresses,passes,the Great
Wall and beacon towers.
? ―Memorial and decorative buildings such as
council halls,clock towers,drum towers,cross-
street pavilions,memorial gateways and
movable walls.
? ―Mausoleum construction works such as
stone watch towers,archways,cliff tomb,
sacrificial altars,and imperial tombs.
? ―Gardening projects such as imperial gardens,
official gardens,private gardens and villas.
? ―Sacrificial buildings such as Literati Temple
(Confucian Temple),Marshal Temple (Guang Yu
Temple) and ancestral halls.
? ―Bridge and water conservancy projects such as
stone bridges,wooden bridges,dams,harbors,and
? ---Civil housing such as cave dwellings,thatched
cottages,tile-roofed houses,courtyards and principal
? ―Religious structures such as abbeys,convents,halls,
temples in Buddhism and Daoism along with mosques
in Muslim and churches in Christianity.
? ―Recreational works such as night clubs,theatres,
dancing halls,stalls and auditoriums.
? Exclusively in Shanxi province can be seen
a host of the representative buildings in
good condition,the Founder Pagoda at
Buddhist Light Temple in Mount Wutai; the
quadrangle at Qiaojiabao in Qi county; the
honorific archway at Zhonghe street in
Heshun county; a pair of stone lions at
Daiyue Temple in Jincheng city; Zhongyang
Pavilion in Xiaoyi county;
? the tripitaka hall of Bojia Religion at Huayan
Temple in Datong city; the Nanlaoyuan
kiosk,the Duiyue Gateway,the wooden-
carved dragon at the front veranda of St,
Maria Hall,and the Sarira Stupa Pagoda at
Buddha-Adored Temple in Jin Temple in
Taiyuan city; the giant Buddhist statue and
the Sky-Flying Fairy Statue at Yungang
Grottos in Datong city,the upturned eaves
of Yungang Grottos and the Liao-Dynasty
sculptures at the tripitaka hall of Bojia
Religion at Huayan Temple in Datong city.
? Nowadays in China have remained the
following stereotypic ancient relics:
? The Great wall is esteemed an extremely
stupendous military project in the ancient
China extending eastward form Shanhai
Pass in Hebei province via Shanxi provinece,
Inner Mongolia,Shaanxi province and
Ningxia westward to Jiayu Pass in Gansu
province,an aggregate length of over
12,000 li (a li is equal to half kilometer),
The Great Wall was commenced to be
under construction in the Warring States
period as a defense screen against the
nomadic tribes or kingdoms cruising on the
northern border,which was resumed and
completed in the Chin Dynasty winding
westward from Lintao to Liaoning eastward,
The presently-standing Great Wall claims to
be the remainder of the Ming Dynasty based
upon the achievements from Chin,Han、
Northern Wei,Northern Qi via Sui and
Song to Yuan,
? The prodigious project had undergone the
unrivaled drudgery over the past 2,000
years while the stones and bricks,the soil
and wood inlaid therein condensed the
perseverance and intelligence steeped in
Chinese nation,having cemented a well-
ranging prestige of Chinese ancient
engineering technology,one of the greatest
architectural wonders across the globe.
? The Dharma King Temple Pagoda,founded
in Yongping 14,the Han Dynasty (71 A.D),
is situated in the north of Dengfeng county
in Henan province as one of the most age-
old Buddhist abbeys in China.
? The Temple consists of two sections,the
temple yard and the two-entrance pagoda
yard built up in the Ming Dynasty with a
three-partition gateway under a single-eaves
gabled roof,which has been preserved as
the earliest wooden structure therein since
the reign of Emperor Hongzhi (1488-1505)
as per the Records of Reconstruction Works
of Dharma King Temple written in Jiaging 10,
the Ming Dynasty (1531).
? On the sloping hill north of the temple yard
is located the pagoda yard wherein is
erected a 15-storey intense-eaves square
pagoda matched with three small single-
storey grave towers,The pagoda stands
40m-plus high with a flat outer wall and the
flying eaves laid with bricks layer upon layer,
a short tower raised on the top,It was
fabricated upright and elegant,with an arch
gate in the lower body and arch window
frames between the eaves on different
stories,a high-grade of the kind,
? Mount Maiji Grottoes,enrolled in the four
most prominent grottos in China,lies in the
southeast of Tianshui city in Gansu province,
The Mount protrudes upstanding as an
isolated peak in the western Chin Range,
looking like an immense wheat haystack.
? The Grottoes was excavated roughly in the
Later Chin Dynasty (384-417) and gradually
improved into a grandiose-scale complex of
stone grottos with Buddhist statuettes
installed within cubicles on the precipices
tier upon tier and the wooden-plank road
zigzagging its way round the cliff,
? Approximately in Kaiyuan 22,the Tang
Dynasty (734 A.D) there happened a
stalwart earthquake in Tianshui which
caused the collapse of the middle part of the
precipices and rendered solely left the
eastern and western grottoes,Currently the
eastern grottoes contain fifty four cubicles
and the western one hundred forty cubicles,
preserving a treasure of over 7,000 clay
sculptures or stone engravings and 1,000
m2 frescoes spread from the end of the
fourth century to the beginning of the
nineteenth century;
hereto stands a clay-sculpture Buddhist
statue as high as fifteen meters fulfilled in
the Sui Dynasty,over which rests a Han-
style attic---Seven-Buddha Pavilion and
under which are coupled two grottoes with
the stone-chiseled eaves in the four-pillar
three-partition frame,The pillars were
polished in an octagonal shape in
robustness and appropriate proportion,
? The clay sculptures and stone engravings in
Mount Maij Grottoes,no matter whether
they may appear in ―thin bone and slender
figure‖,a favorite fashion in Southern-
Northern Dynasties,or in plump and mellow
flesh,as was valued in the later centuries,
were evinced in the traditional approach of
―portraying the spirit with the image‖ or ―the
spirit cemented with the image‖,a full
incarnation of the unequaled style
respecting Chinese ancient sculptures.
? At the pinnacle of Mount Maiji is available a
9.4-meter high dagoba executed during the
throne of Emperor Wen of Northern Wei
Dynasty,Ascending there and looking afar
visitors can enjoy an overview of mountains,
valleys,and seas of green pine trees and
drifting clouds,the prime of ―Maiji Misty Rain‖
of the eight local sightseeing wonders in
? The Buddhist Light Temple is situated at
Foguang village twenty five kilometers
northeast of Mount Wutai in Shanxi province,
Facing the east it was constructed on the
hillside with a spacious inner yard and a gross
of one hundred and twenty palaces,halls,
chambers and pavilions,It made appearance in
the rule of Emperor Xiao Wen of Northern Wei
Dynasty (471-499) and found expression in a
heap of the chronicles to the effect that
congregations of disciples used to dedicate
religious homage to the Buddhist shrines
therein in burning incense and praying,In
Huichang 5,the Tang Dynasty,a nation-wide
campaign was launched to abolish Buddhism,
hence came its destruction,
The current grand hall was restored in Dazhong 11,
the Tang Dynasty,in a seven-partition wide and four-
entrance deep compound with a single-eaves hip roof,
imposing corbel arches and far-reached eaves in a
stately beauty,The pillars,corbel arches,horizontal
tablets,window frames and walls were unanimously
structured in a simple design and painted vermillion
with lacquer,appearing to be antique in style,This
temple,in both structure and molding proportion,
epitomizes the features of the wooden buildings in the
Tang Dynasty holding a remarkable status in the
history of Chinese architecture as well as world
architecture,Besides the Tang-style sculptures,
murals and calligraphic works equally have shared
reputation,prized as ―four wonders‖ together with
what‘s mentioned above,
? The Suspension Temple in the south of
Hunyuan county in Shanxi province dates back
to the concluding phase of the Northern Wei
Dynasty and was reconstructed respectively in
Jurcheng,Yuan and Ming,The project is
suspended on the hillside,looking upward at
the hanging rocks and overlooking the deep
valley with a cluster of more than thirty halls,
chambers,garrets and pavilions ―strewn at
random‖ on an evergreen vertical escarpment;
being watched afar it seems to be a splendid
Heavenly jade mansion looming ahead,
? The framework therein avails itself of the
principle of structural mechanics and has
remained unimpaired over hundreds of
years in rainy erosion and disastrous earth
tremors,denoting the expertise and
dexterity involving the architectural
technology of the ancient Chinese people.
? Yungang Grottoes is located at the southern
cliff of Mount Zhouwu on the western suburb
of Datong city,inscribed onto the list of key
protection institutions of national cultural
relics,It was excavated alongside the 1000
m-long cliff,of which the cardinal grottoes
had been accomplished before the transfer of
the Northern Wei capital to Luoyang,So far
available have been fifty three cubicles
inclusive of twenty one large-sized ones
rivaled with 51,000 stone statues and
statuettes,one of the tripartite highly-valued
grottoes in China.
? Songyue Temple Pagoda as the earliest brick
tower preserved so far was mounted on the
southern side of Mount Song,six kilometers
northwest of Dengfeng county in Henan
province,in Zhengguang 4,the Northern Wei
Dynasty (523),Originally this Temple served
as an imperial sojourn palace and was
donated as a Buddhist abbey in Zhengguang
1,the reign of Emperor Xiao Ming,Bearing
an initial title Stay-Idle Temple at the outset,it
was transferred to Songyue Temple in
Renshou 2,the Sui Dynasty,It won prodigy in
scale during the period of the Northern Wei,
? Songyue Temple Pagoda is framed a
dense-eaves brick tower with a 41-m
height in a regular 12-side outer contour,
The central chamber enclosed therein is
shaped in regular octagon with 7.6 m in
width and 2.45 m in the wall thickness on
the ground floor,which is accessible
through four entrances in east,west,
north and south,Among armies of the
brick towers handed down to the present
day it stands out exclusively as a 12-side
? The Pagoda is marked by not only the
unparalleled plane design but also the graceful
outline,This 41 m-high tower rests on a 1 m-
minus-high brick base,and the trunk solely
accounts for one third of the total height,the
remaining two thirds of the height being utilized
for the 15-layer dense eaves and the apex
inlaid with bricks tier upon tier reaching beyond,
Hereto is adopted the hollow-cylinder structure
for the brick pagoda,the interior of which is
furnished with the 9-tier eaves for installation of
wooden beams and planks,Despite no trace of
the planks left at present it pioneered for the
modern steel-concrete multi-storey cylinder
? The Incense-Accumulated Temple Pagoda
is lying at Shenheyuan southwest of Weiqu
town of Chang‘an county in Shaanxi
province,17 kilometers away from Xi‘an
proper,Erected in Shenglong 2,the reign of
Emperor Zhong (Li Xian) of Tang (706),it
was highly esteemed at that time in the
honor and for the bury of Monk Shan Dao,
the forerunner of Buddhist Sukhavati or
Pure Land Sect,So naturally it works as a
birthplace of the Sect weighing in the history
of Buddhism,
The age-old Pagoda was incipiently built up
as a 13-story brick tower with wooden
planks in a square plane,each side being
9.5 m in length; and it remains presently in
ten storeys with a 33-metre height owing to
the early damage to the apex,Its design
was engineered to be a dense-eaves
pavilion-like style,featuring an immense
height on the first storey and a meticulous
craftsmanship compared with those of the
genus,and retaining a certain degree of
worth over the history of architecture.
? As the most aged wooden framework present in
China,the grand hall of Nanchan Temple was
put up at Lijiazhuang Village of Yangbai
Township of Wutai County in Shanxi Province in
Jianzhong 3,the Tang Dynasty (782),roughly
one thousand two hundred years ago,
Constructed in a moderate scale,the grand hall
is designed as a three-partition square with no
poles inside but two full-length four-rafter
frameworks,The hip roof with flying eaves
extends far beyond while the corbel arch bears
no supplementary partition,a typified Tang-style
wooden structure in a well-balanced grace,The
majority of the poles fixed nearby appears
circular,but three of them square which are
suspected to be the original relics and are solely
found in Dunhuang frescoes,as being the first
discovery of the kind.
? The Three Pagodas in Dali lie at the foot of
Mount Cang north of Dali county in Yunnan
province,leaning westward against the
clouds-drifting Mount Cang and overlooking
the glistening calm waves in the Erhai Lake,