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Chinese architecture

The Liuhe Pagoda of Hangzhou, China, built in 1165 AD during the Song Dynasty.

Chinese architecture refers to a style of architecture that has taken shape in Asia over the centuries. The structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details. Since the Tang Dynasty, Chinese architecture has had a major influence on the architectural styles of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

The architecture of China is as old as Chinese civilization. From every source of information - literary, graphic, exemplary - there is strong evidence testifying to the fact that the Chinese have always employed an indigenous system of construction that has retained its principal characteristics from prehistoric times to the present day. Over the vast area from Chinese Turkistan to Japan, from Manchuria to the northern half of French Indochina, the same system of construction is prevalent; and this was the area of Chinese cultural influence. That this system of construction could perpetuate itself for more than four thousand years over such a vast territory and still remain a living architecture, retaining its principal characteristics in spite of repeated foreign invasions - military, intellectual, and spiritual - is a phenomenon comparable only to the continuity of the civilization of which it is an integral part.

The following article gives a cursory explanation of traditional Chinese architecture, before the introduction of Western building methods during the early 20th Century. Throughout the 20th Century, however, Western-trained Chinese architects

have attempted to combine traditional Chinese designs into modern (usually government) buildings, with only limited success. Moreover, the pressure for urban development throughout contemporary China required higher speed of construction and higher floor area ratio, which means that in the great cities the demand for traditional Chinese buildings, which is normally lower than 3 levels, was taken place by the modern architecture. However, the traditional skills of Chinese architecture, including major carpentry, minor carpentry, masonry, and stone masonry, are still applied to the construction of vernacular architecture in the vast rural area in China.

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty.

There are certain features common to all Chinese architecture, regardless of specific region or use.

The most important is the emphasis on the horizontal axis, in particular the construction of a heavy platform and a large roof that floats over this base, with the vertical walls not as well emphasized. This contrasts Western architecture, which tends to grow in height and depth. Chinese architecture stresses the visual impact of the width of the buildings. The halls and palaces in the Forbidden City, for example, have rather low ceilings when compared to equivalent stately buildings in the West, but their external appearances suggest the all-embracing nature of imperial China. This of course does not apply to pagodas, which, in any case, are relatively rare. These ideas have found their way into modern Western architecture, for example through the work of J

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