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Brief Introduction of Chinese Architecture

China's distinctive architecture makes up an important part of China's splendid civilization. Together with Western and Muslim architecture, the three styles comprise the world's major architectural systems.

China's wood frameworks are unique in the world. They reflect the values, aesthetic and ethical standard of the Chinese people. Chinese architecture is rooted in cultural tradition and features several characteristics. It highlights absolute imperial power and strict social status. The best examples of this can be found in the palaces and forbidden cities. Chinese architecture also stresses overall beauty and its axial layout pattern is widely used in buildings. The Chinese style also incorporates elements of nature and emphasizes a graceful, reserved and easy-going beauty.

Apart from the Han ethnic group, architecture in the ethnic minorities is also diversified and distinct.

Chinese architecture can be categorized into palaces, temples, gardens, tombs and residences.

Since ancient times, Chinese architecture has heavily influenced builders in Japan, North Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia. Today, while preserving traditional style, Chinese architecture has absorbed elements from western countries and keeps growing.


Ancient Chinese architecture has a long history which can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (16th century BC - 771 BC). It has its own principles of structure and layout. Through the long development, many architectural wonders have been created by industrious and clever Chinese laboring people. Ancient Chinese architectural miracles are innumerable ranging from Great Wall White Horse Temple, Mogao Caves to Summer Palace and Forbidden City.

Ancient Chinese architecture is mainly timberwork. Wooden posts, beams, lintels and joists make up the framework of a house. Walls serve as the separation of rooms without bearing the weight of the whole house, which is unique to China. As a famous saying goes, 'Chinese houses will still stand when their walls collapse.' The specialty of wood requires antisepsis methods to be adopted, thus develops into Chinese own architectural painting decoration. Colored glaze roofs, windows with exquisite applique design and beautiful flower patterns on wooden pillars reflect the high-level of the craftsmen's handicraft and their rich imagination.

The layout of a courtyard complex is also unique to China. The main structure is located on the central axis of a court while less-important structures are located to the left and right. The whole layout is symmetrical. Compared with European architectural style which is open and shut, a Chinese courtyard is like a hand scroll of painting which should be unfolded little by little. The scenery is different in each courtyard. Even in moving several steps within the court yard, you will be surprised at the changing of prospects. Likewise from the interior of the buildings the view from no two windows is the same.

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