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Traditional Chinese Architecture Styles


When people happen to talk about the differences in culture between China and the Western world, those differences in architectural styles that are conspicuous will undoubtedly protrude into their attention. If you can spare some time to make a sightseeing tour, then the characteristic features of civilian residential housing in the northern part of China will certainly intrigue you.

Traditional Chinese Architecture Styles

The overall characteristic of civilian residential housing in the northern part of China is that it takes the courtyard (or patio) as the nucleus and, on the principle of having the exterior substantially built and the interior made enormous in vacant space, deploys the houses used for various purposes in an orderly pattern symmetrically on the two sides of a longitudinal axis. Of this type of architectural construction, the quadrangles of Beijing are the highest in technical level and most typical in design. They are the excellent representative of the civilian residential housing of the Han nationality of China.

In the course of historical development, Chinese people grew more and more fond of the quadrangle as a form of architecture. Not only did palaces, temples and government offices use quadrangles, but the houses of common people also gradually came to adopt this form of architectural structure extensively.

Why is the term "quadrangle" employed to name this type of building? Because this type of civilian dwelling has a principal house (the northern house, facing south), an opposite house (facing north), an eastern-wing house and a western-wing house. The four houses surround a courtyard, forming altogether a rectangle with an empty center.

Furthermore, the term "quadrangle" does not simply means, as in America, a rectangular area surrounded on four sides by buildings. The Chinese term

Traditional Chinese Architecture Styles

has additionally the connotation that the structure is enclosed from four sides. Thus this type of architectural construction has four houses which, generally speaking, have windows that open only towards the courtyard in the center. It may be considered a hermetic dwelling place, which has only one exit, that is, by the street door. While that door is shut up, the dwelling is a small cosmos by itself, with very strict privacy and confidentiality, highly suitable for one family to live in. The dwellers in the four houses can communicate with each other through the doors that all open only towards the courtyard. Protected from intrusion by strangers, the whole family live inside in harmony and happiness, filled with a sense of safety. This advantage is of course common to civilian housing of this type everywhere in China.

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