Chinese Architecture (2)
When the Chinese speak of a lou , they refer to any building of two or more storeys with a horizontal main ridge.
The erection of such buildings began a long time ago in the Period of Warring States (475¡ª221 B.C.), when chonglou (¡°layered houses¡±) was mentioned in historical records.
Ancient buildings with more than one storey were meant for a variety of uses. The smaller two-storeyed buildings of private homes generally has the owner's study or bedroom upstairs. The more magnificent ones built in parks or at scenic spots were belvederes from which to enjoy distant scenery. In this case it is sometimes translated as a ¡°tower¡±. A Tang Dynasty poet upon his visit to a famous riverside tower composed a poem, two lines of which are still very much quoted: ¡° To look for into the distance, Go up yet one more storey¡±.
Ancient cities has bell and drum towers (zhonglou and gulou), usually palatial buildings with four-sloped, double-eaved, glazed roofs, all around verandas and colored and carved dougong brackets supporting the overhanging eaves. They housed a big bell or drum which were used to announce time, and the local officials would open the city gates at the toll of the bell early in the morning and close them with the strike of the drum in the evening.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties (14 th to 20 th century), in front of each city gate of Beijing stood an archery tower, forming a barbican as a defence fortification. Two of them can still be seen today, at Qianmen and Deshengmen gates. Also in Beijing , a ¡°corner tower¡± still remains relatively intact at the southeastern corner of the old Inner City; it is put under state protections as a cultural relic, being the only one left in the ancient capital.
The art of constructing tall buildings was highly developed in China already in ancient times. Many multiple-storeyed towers of complex structure had wholly wood frameworks fixed together with dougong brackets without the use of a single piece of metal. Yueyang Tower in Hunan and Huanghelou (Tower of the Yellow Crane) in Wuchang are masterpieces among ancient towers.
The Chinese ge is similar to the lou in that both are of two or more storeys, but the ge has a door and windows only on the front side, with the other three sides all solid walls, and it is usually enclosed by wood balustrades or decorated boards all around.
Such storeyed pavilions were used in ancient times for the storage of important articles and documents. Wenyuange , for instance, in the Forbidden City of Beijing was in effect the imperial library. Kuiwenge in the Confucius Temple of Qufu, Shandong Province, was devoted to the safekeeping of the books and works of painting and calligraphy bestowed by the courts of various dynasties. Visitors to the city of Ningbo , Zhejiang Province , can still see Tianyige , which houses the greatest private collection of books handed down from the past. Monasteries of a large size normally have their own libraries built in the style of a ge and called cangjingge to keep their collections of Buddhist scriptures. Some of the ge, notably those erected in parks, like other pavilions or towers ( ting, tai and lou ), were used for enjoying the sights.
The name ge is also used to describe the towers which shelter the colossal statues one finds in some great monasteries. A prominent example in the Guanyinge of Dulesi Temple in Jiixan country, Heibei Province . Twenty-three meters high and housing the huge idol of the Goddess of Mercy ( Guanyin ), it is the oldest existing multiple-storeyed structure of its kind in China . Built in the Liao Dynasty (907¡ª 1125 A .D), it has withstood twenty-eight earthquakes including three of a devastating nature. When all the houses in the area collapsed, it was the only one that survived the disaster. This goes to show how well its wood frame was structured. Other well-known religious buildings housing Buddhist statues, big or small, include Foxiangge in Beijing 's Summer Palace , Dashengge in Chengde's Puningsi Temple and Zhenwuge in Ronxian , Guangdong Province. All of them, tall, graceful and dignified, can be listed as representative works of classical Chinese architecture.
One of the structures in traditional Chinese landscape gardening is the xie , a special form of pavilion. The earliest xie referred to the wood houses built on high terraces, but with the change of taste it became more and more the fashion in later epochs to build the single-storyed six on the shore of lakes or ponds.
It is the special feature of the shuxie (waterside pavilion) to be rectangular or near square in plan figure, half erected on land and half over water supported by stone pillars driven into the lake bottom. This structure is walled not with bricks but with wood frames having fancy windows on all sides. The side on the water is bordered with railings and equipped with seats, fixed or movable, to provide visitors with vantage point to feast their eyes on the scenes of the lake.
A typical example of this structure is the waterside pavilion in Xiequ Garden ( Garden of Harmonious Interest ) of the Summer Palace , from which Cixi, the all-powerful Empress Dowager of the late Qing Dynasty, is said to have enjoyed herself at fishing.
Other well-known buildings of the same style include Furongxie in Zhuozheng Yuan (the Humble Administrator's Garden) of Suzhou , Shuixie in the Zhongshan Park of Beijing and Shuixinxie in the Mountain Resort of Chengde.
House of Retreat
Certain types of Chinese buildings or rooms that provide or promise a quiet retreat for specific purposes are usually called zhai. This is originally a word with religious implication, meaning ¡°purification by ablution and abstinence.¡± From this has been derived the name zhaigong (palace of purification), a special housing complex where the mind and body were ¡°purified¡± in preparation for sacrifice or other solemn ceremonies.
Such a zhaigong still stands on the precincts of Beijing 's Temple of Heaven , inside its western entrance on the right hand side. The emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties, before they presented themselves at the annual rites of Heaven worship, used to stay there to bathe themselves and observe abstinence from pleasures. During this period of preparation, there would be no banqueting, no music, no drinking, no criminals would be tried or punishments meted out. This palace attached to the temple is of considerable size. In a compound of more than 40,000 square meters stand the main halls, living quarters for the emperor, a drum tower and a number of supporting buildings, totaling over 60 rooms. The magnificent structures, defended by two moats and bordered by a long corridor of 167 bays, make up the largest palace of its kind in the country.
In private houses, the rooms used as studies or for the keeping of books are called shuzhai or ¡°book chambers¡±. All zhai, whether devoted to religious activities or intellectual pursuits, were built as a rule in quiet, secluded spots, away from the sightseeing areas, sometimes with enclosure walls of their own. In Beijing 's Beihai Park , for instance, there is a ¡°garden within a garden¡± called Jingxinzhai or the Tranquil Heart Studio. Covering an area of 4,700 square meters, this peaceful place with houses of a distinctively graceful style used to be frequented by Emperor Qianlong when he wanted to do some serious reading or pursue quiet pleasures. Other examples par excellence among buildings described as zhai are Juanqinzhai (Studio of Relaxation) of the Qianlong Garden and Yangxinzhai (Studio of Metal Cultivation) of the Imperial Garden , both in the Forbidden City .
This is usually a simple but elegant structure built in parks or gardens to give an embellishing touch to the landscape. It is called xuan after the name of a high-fronted, curtained carriage used in ancient times by people of rank probably because, like the carriage, it is also high in front and airy and spacious inside.
Architecturally, the xuan is rather similar to the ting (pavilion), and both are used to adorn the scenic views either standing on the side of a lake or nesting on the slope of a mountain. The difference between the two is that the xuan is larger in size, more closed and normally rectangular in plan, whereas the smaller ting has always a pointed round roof and no walls; the xuan is simply furnished with some tables and chairs so that people may sit down for a cup of tea, play a game of weiqi or appreciate works of art, whereas the ting is as a whole devoid of furniture.
The word xuan occasionally appears in the name of teahouse or a restaurant. A well-known example is Laijinyuxuan (come New Friends Studio) in Beijing 's Zhongshan Park . Established in 1914, it operated at the beginning as a teahouse and snackbar. Lu Xun, the great writer used to frequent it to have tea, read newspapers and meet friends. The present Laijinyuxuan is a restaurant specializing in Sichuan and Jiangsu cuisine.
Among other structures representative of this style of architecture, imperial or private, one should count Xieqiuxuan (Paint Autumn Studio) in Beijing 's Summer Palace and Zhuwaiyizhixuan (Lone Bamboo Outside the Grove) in Suzhou 's Wangshiyuan ( Master-of-nets Garden ).
The covered corridor represents a typical architectural style in Chinese landscape gardening. A long, belt-like structure, it is a roofed walk with low railings or long side benches. Providing people with shade from the sun and protection from the rain, it not only adds beauty to the general scenery but plays a useful role as well.
Chinese covered corridors fall into many varieties, but roughly they may be divided into youlang which links two or more buildings, qulang (the zigzag corridor), huilang (the winding corridor), hualang which is used for the display of potted flowers, and shuilang which borders on the lakes or goes over ponds.
It is the general consensus that at the top of all classical corridors must be listed by any standards the Long Corridor in Beijing 's Summer Palace , a unique treasure in the art of gardening arrangement. An exquisite winding structure of 728 meters, it stretches its 273 bays between the hill and the lake, broken at intervals by four double-eaved, octagonal pavilions, which represent the four seasons of the year. All its beams are painted with colored picture of landscapes, human figures, flowers, birds and scenes of historical and popular stories. These paintings total more than 40,000 in number, and the visitor would need eight hours just to linger two seconds before each picture.
The long Corridor, it is said, was built by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty in order that his mother might safely enjoy the scenes of rain or snow over the lake. In effect it is a piece of ingenious engineering which at once divides and links up the hill and the lake of the Summer Palace . Whether one looks at the lake from the hill or at the hill from the lake, the Long Corridor is always there, not only a pretty frame border for a nice picture but a colorful belt to bind the two parts together.
Famous private Chinese gardens, located mostly in the southern provinces, likewise, are often ornamented with corridors. In Suzhou 's Zhuozhengyuan (The Humble Adminitrator's Garden), part of the winding corridor is erected over a pond and has been described as a ¡°rainbow over water¡±. With its reflection in the water, sometimes ruffled by a breeze, it is a favorite spot for visitors to take snapshots of themselves. In Liuyuan (Garden to Linger In), another well-known garden of Suzhou , the buildings¡ªpavilion, terrace, hall, tower, ect---break, and at the same time are linked by, a 600-meter-long corridor. Its walls have fancy cut-through windows which reveal scences on the other side, and they are also inset with 300 stone-engravings of calligraphical works and poems by famous masters; both the windows and the engravings are regarded as masterpieces of their respective kinds. Visitors come here either to feast their eyes on the natural views or on the works of art and poetry, all at their choice.
The Chinese tan is an altar where ancient rules used to offer sacrifices to Heaven or the gods, and architecturally it refers to a special type of terrace-like building. Several ancient tan in Beijing , mostly dating from the Ming (1368¡ª1644) and Qing (1644¡ª1911) dynasties, have remained in name if not in fact. A number of Beijing 's parks, for instance, still have word tan in their names: Tiantan ( Temple of Heaven ), Yuetan (Alter to the Moon), Ditan (Alter to the Earth), Ritan (Alter to the Sun.
All five were first built in the Ming Dynasty for the worship of such gods as indicated in their names. On the grounds of what have become parks stood the altars of worship, either round terrace of three tiers (as in the Temple of Heaven ) or square ones of one or two tiers.
The most celebrated altar in China is Huanqiutan (or the Circular Mound Altar in Beijing 's Temple of Heaven , religiously the most important temple construction. Built in 1530 under the Ming, the all-marble terrace is five meters high and consists of three tiers, respectively 30, 40, and 70 meters across. The terrace is circular, in keeping with the ancient Chinese belief that Heaven was round. The number of the stones used for the surfaces of the terrace and on the steps and the number of the balusters for each tier are all nine (the highest masculine figure or its multiples. The terrace is devoid of any other structure and it was to this bare altar that the Ming or Qing emperor came to offer sacrifices to Heaven. In a ceremony called ¡°Open-air rite¡±, obeisance was made to Heaven, unobstructed by anything overhead.
Altar of the Land and Grain
In the Zhongshan Park in central Beijing lies a terrace filled and surfaced with earth of five different colors. This is Shejitan (the altar of the Land and Grain), popularly known as Wusetu (five-Colored Earth)
The classical is an elevated square bordered with three tiers of low walls of white marble. The surface earth shows five patches of different colors with unclear demarcation---green to the east, red to the south, white to the west, black to the north and yellow in the middle. The arrangement symbolizes the ancient principle that ¡°all earth under the sky belongs to the emperor¡±.
The five colors of the altar, some say, are also intended to represent the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) which ancient Chinese philosophy held to compose the physical universe.
According to others, the altar could be taken as rough model showing the distribution of different types of soil in China as the various colors of the earth on the terrace point approximately to the same directions in which soils of similar types actually lie in the country.
What is noteworthy is that the altar gives prominence to the yellow color by putting yellow earth in the middle. Yellow was held in high esteem in hold Chinese because it is the color of the Yellow River , the once-supposed only cradle of the Chinese civilization. And for the same reason, all Chinese still call themselves the descendants of the Yellow Emperor, a legendary leader in prehistoric China .
Besides, yellow is also the color of the ripe grain, whose god was the object of worship at Shejitan. The land and the material foundation of the imperial power, and therefore yellow became the imperial color in China . This was another reason for putting yellow earth in the middle.
Originally a square stone column stood at the center of the altar to symbolize the rock-like solidarity of the empire. It was removed in 1950.
The Altar of the Land and Grain was built in A.D. 1421 in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Since then, sacrifices had been offered by the emperors of different generations twice a year in spring and autumn until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.
The pailou , also known as paifang , is an archway of a memorial of decorative nature. It could be made of wood, brick or stone, with or without glazed tiles, often carrying some inscriptions on the middle beam. The normal places where such archways stood were thoroughfare crossroads, shrines and temples, government offices, bridges, parks, tombs and mausoleumns, and they generally carried inscriptions to propagate certain moral principles or to extol government achievements. The pailou could also serve as the fa?ade of a shop to prettify its entrance and attract customers. Many a pailou was erected to praise the ¡°lofty virtues¡± of certain individuals in the locality. Fettered by the feudal ethical code, many widowed women refrained from remarriage just in the hope to have ¡° pailou of chastity¡± built for them when they reached a ripe old age.
According to relevant records, there used to be some 57 archways in old Beijing . Among the well-known ones were one each at the crossroads of Dongdan and Xidan, four each at Dongsi and Xisi, one at Qianmen and a couple standing astride Chang'anjie, the main street running eastwest in front of Tian'anmen. Nearly all of these have been taken apart or moved elsewhere.
A well-preserved pailou is the one in front of the main entrance to the Summer Palace Park . Built 200 years ago, it is composed of four columns forming three arches and carrying on top seven roofed ornamental units. Inscribed in front and at the back are two Chinese classical characters each, succinctly summing up the beauty of the hill and the lake in the park. Painted on it amidst rich color are 176 golden dragons and 36 dragon phoenixes, giving the visitor a foretaste of the sumptuous splendour that he is going to witness.
Among the pailou of imperial mausoleums, the best-known is the great archway standing at the southern end of the grounds of Beijing 's Ming Tombs, the first structure that the visitor will see. A pailou of 6 columns, 5 arches and 11 superstructures, it is built entirely of white marble, and its stone columns are engraved with dragons, lions, unicorns and other mythical animals to display the power and dignity of the imperial house. Majestic and simple, it measures 28.86 meters wide and stands 14 meters high in the middle, one of the greatest of its kind in the country.
In the city proper of Beijing , a few other ancient archways have survived down to this day. There is a glaze-tiled pailou of 3 arches and 7 superstructures in Shenlujie Street , Chaoyang District,. Not far from the Lama Temple (Yonghegong), in the side street of the ancient Imperial College (Guozijian), two paiou have been renovated recently and are shining with new luster.
An ornamental structure in classical Chinese landscaping, shifang (marble boat) is also popularly known as shichuan (which means the same thing) or, in southern China , hanchuan (land boat). A marble boat usually has its underwater base and its body built of stone and its on-deck cabins of wood in the form of a pavilion ( xuan, xi e or lou- --see previous articles); it may also have a cabin at the bow and at the stern, just like a model of the ¡°official boat¡± of ancient times. Normally built near the shore, it is accessible by means of a stone bridge. Sightseers go aboard to appreciate the surrounding scenery, feeling as if they were gently water-borne on a real boat.
The largest existing marble boat in China is the one of 36 meters in the Summer Palace of Beijing. Popularly known as the marble Boat, its official name Qingyanfang has long fallen into oblivion. First built in A.D. 1755 completely of white stones during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, it was meant to be a water-surface belvedere for the imperial family as well as a symbol of the rockfirm solidarity of the imperial power. The original wood cabin-house was burnt down by British and French troops in 1860. The present structure, rebuilt in 1893 during the reign of Guangxu, was supposed to be patterned after the cabin-house on a Western vessel, the windows paned with stained glass and the floor paved with enameled tiles. It is generally believed that the powerful Emperor Dowager Cixi watched from the Marble Boat the exercise of naval units on the lake. It is now one of the tourist attractions in the park.
Similar stone boats but of smaller sizes can be seen in the royal palace of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851¡ª1864) in Nanjing , in three private gardens of Suzhou and on Lake Shouxihu ( Slender West Lake ) of Yangzhou .
Jingdong or the ¡°scenic opening¡± is the general term for fancy gates and windows, another feature of the national art of Chinese architecture. Usually found in parks and private gardens, they make part of the landscape or provide picture frames, as it were, to natural scenes while serving their proper practical purposes.
The fancy gate ( jingmen ) may be of any form---round, square, oval, polygon, a vase, a crescent, a bay leaf, a lotus petal, a garland and what not. On either side of such a gate are usually planted bamboos, flowering plants and grass and occasionally also rockeries. Leading to and through the gate is sometimes a pebbled pathway with flowery patterns. Thus beautiful scenes are created with the fancy gate as the focus.
Fancy windows ( jingchuang ), likewise, may be built in various shapes---round, oval, a drum, a crescent, a polygon, an open book, a bay leaf, a flower...And as a rule they are fixed on fancy or corridor walls in pleasure gardens and, through them as picture frames, sightseers may view scenes on the other side, which change as they walk on.
Noteworthy is the type of scenic windows called louchuang or ¡°hollowed window¡±. They may be constructed of tiles or bricks, wood or stone carvings, leaving opening of geometric patterns and decorated with carved-through human or animal figures. Strollers, through the openings of such windows, will get fragmentary and changing glimpses of the views across the wall.. The idea of the louchuang, probably an artistic conception unique to Chinese architecture, has recently been extensively adopted for modern buildings such as theatres, art galleries, cultural centers, exhibition halls, art shops and certain high-class residences. They help ventilation and interior lighting, and create pleasing sights as well.
Grotesque rockeries are often seen in Chinese parks and gardens. They range from a little over meter to 5 or 6 meters in height. Some stand on the roadside, others are planted in the middle of ponds. They are as a rule grown with exotic flowers and rare plants, making scenic attractions. More often than not they are made from ¡°Taihu rocks¡± produced at Lake Taihu in Jiangsu Province .
The said lake area is rich in carbonate limestone rocks and enjoys abundant rainfalls. Constant weathering and rainwater erosion over the ages bore through the rocks, turning them into exquisite nature-wrought pieces of art, characterized by special features of their own. They are slender and elegant in shape, marked with clear veins, riddled with holes, rich in curves and lines on the surface, and porous in substance so that water may be passed up or down for an even distribution of moisture. For these reasons, they are favorite with Chinese painters and landscape architects.
Taihu rocks are not works of nature alone. Since the Song Dynasty (960¡ª1279) masons on the shores of Lake Taihu have been engaged in the
quarrying of rocks on the mountains. On the basis of their natural forms an sizes and according to the requirements of landscape gardening, they chisel the rocks and improve on their shapes and then place them in the lake to be washed and sculpted by the moving water. Left thus they become well-polished and smooth in a few year's time. A good example for rockeries made of such rocks can be seen in the Yuyuan Garden of Shanghai under the appropriate Chinese name of ¡°Yulinglong¡± (literally, ¡°Jade Exquisiteness¡±).
Rocks have been used to make artificial miniature hills in pleasure gardens. Well-known among these one can list the rock hill named Duixiu (¡°Heaped Elegance¡±) in the Imperial Garden of Beijing's Forbidden City and another hill in Suzhou, named Shizilin (¡°Forest of Lions¡±) because it is made up of rocks that resemble as many lions in myriad postures. An artificial hill in the Summer Palace , lying to the east of Xijialou Pavilion, is also built of Taihu rocks and in imitation of Suzhou 's Forest of Lions just mentioned.
In the old days, to glue the rocks together into rockeries or hills, a cementing material made of lime and glutinous rice gruel was used. Today the work is made easier by the use of cement. Large rockeries and artificial rock hills often contain man-made caves which wind through them left and right, up and down, now lighted through openings, now completely dark, forming labyrinths to provide sightseers with delightful surprises. The hills are normally grown with trees and plants on their slopes and crowned with pavilions on top where visitors may linger to take in the panorama. Such
arrangements often engender an illusion of space bigger than the reality, while partitioning a compound into secluded sections, tranquil from the noise of the outside world.
The Chinese Quadrangle
Traditionally most urban Chinese used to live I quadrangles called siheyuan or ¡°four-side enclosed courtyards¡±. These courts, as the name implies, are formed by inward-facing houses on four sides, closed in by enclosure walls.
A small or medium-sized siheyuan usually has its main or only entrance gate built at the southeastern corner of the quadrangle with a screen wall just inside to prevent outsides from peeping in.
Such a residence offers space, comfort and quiet privacy. It is also good for security as well as
protection against dust and storms. Grown with plants and flowers, the court is also a sort of garden.
Al the quadrangles, as products of feudal society, were built in accordance with a strict set of rules. From their size any style one could tell whether they belonged to private individuals or the powerful and rich. The simple house of an ordinary person has only one courtyard with the main building on the north facing, across the court, the southern building with rooms of northern exposure and flanked on the sides by the buildings of eastern and western chambers. The mansion of a titled or very rich family would have two or more courtyards, one behind another, with the main building separated from the view of the southern building by a wall with a fancy gate or by a guoting (walk-through pavilion). Behind the main building there would be a lesser house in the rear and, connected with the main quadrangle, small ¡°corner courtyards¡±.
The lord and lady of the house lived in the sunny main building and their children in the side chambers. The southern row on the opposite side, those nearest to the entrance gate, were generally used as the study, the reception room, the manservants' dwelling or for sundry purposes.
Not only residences but ancient palaces, government offices, temples and monasteries were built basically on the pattern of the siheyuan , acommon feature of traditional Chinese architecture.
Chinese bridges from ancient times, highly varied in material and form, are an important legacy with national characteristics, occupying an important position in the world history of bridge-building.
China , a country with such a long history, has inherited from her past bridges without number: there are, it is said, four million of them if one counts the stone arch bridge alone. In the southern regions of rivers and lakes, the landscape is dotted with bridges of various sized and descriptions, which make it all the more picturesque.
The Stone Arch Bridge ---the stone arch bridge is the most common type of bridges one sees in China . According to historical records, the first stone arch bridge named Lurenqiao (Wayfarers' Bridge) was built in A.D. 282 near the ancient Luoyang Palace . That was more than 1,700 years ago. Then, in a Luoyang tomb dating back to the early Zhou Dynasty, archaeologists found the gate to the burial chamber to be of arch structure, showing that the stone arch existed in China already in about 250 B.C. at the latest.
Anji Bridge is the most famous stone arch bridge in China . It spans the Jiaohe River in Zhaoxian Country , Hebei Province, and is better known as Zhaozhou Bridge after the ancient name of the country. Built during the years 591¡ª 599 A .D. by the mason Li Chun, it is still being used as a bridge with the longest service life in the world. It is 9 meters wide and stretches all its 50.82 meters on a single arch spanning 37.4 meters of the river. On each of the ¡°shoulder¡± of the main arch, there are two spandrel or minor arches. They not only improve the general look of the bridge but help to reduce its weight and thus lighten the load on its foundations. In times of flood water, the minor arches join the main one to facilitate the passage of the current, weakening its impact on the body of the form of squatting lions. It is therefore also called popularly as Shiziqiao ( Lions Bridge ), making it one of the scenic spots around Beijing .
The bridge with the largest number of stone arches is Baodaiqiao ( Treasure Belt Bridge ) on the Grand Canal in Suzhou . Winding 317 meters long, it is formed of 53 arches, three of which are higher than the others to allow the passage of boats sailing on the main channel. The floor of the bridge is level and smooth, making it easier for the boat-trackers of the old days to trudge on. It is said that the bridge was built money realized from a precious belt donated by Wang Zhongshu, governor of Suzhou in the Tang Dynast (619¡ª 907 A .D.), hence its name. It has become one of the local sightseeing attractions.
The stone arch bridge is strong and sturdy but capable of being built in a great variety of shapes. It has long been used as a landscaping structure in China . A splendid example is Yudaiqio ( Jade Belt Bridge ) in Beijing 's Summer Palace . A stone bridge of a single span, it has a high arched back rather like the hump of a camel. Flanked by finely-carved white marble balustrades, it is a picturesque decoration to the lake.
But the typical example of landscape bridge is the Seventeen-arch Bridge in the same palace. Built in 1750, the 150-meter-long bridge has often been compared to a rainbow spanning the lake between the eastern shore and the Nanhu Island . Adorning the stone balustrades on the sides are 554 lively lions exquisitely carved out of marble.
Technical improvements have been made since the founding of New China. In 1966 a single-span stone bridge with minor arches was built at Yixiantian on the Chengdu-Kunming Railways. It is the largest of its kind, being 63.2 meters long, 26 meters high, with the main arch spanning 54 meters. Again in 1971, a stone bridge was constructed at Jiuxigou in Fengdu Country , Sichuan Province. Straddling 116 meters on a single span, it is the largest single-arch stone bridge in China up to date.
Stone arch bridges are highly resistant to weathering and can be very beautiful and dignified. Their material is often available locally. For those reasons, they still have a great future even though other bridges are being built with more modern techniques.
The Zigzag Bridge ---a landscaping structure, the zigzag bridge is found in some gardens or suburban scenic spots. It is intended to give an interesting feature to the scene on lakes and pounds and enlarge the scope of the sightseers' stroll over the water surface.
Such a bridge may have three, five or more zigzags. Jiuqu Qiao ( Nine-bend Bridge ) in Yuyuan Garden of Shanghai's old town is typical one. Going over a lake thirty meters across, the bridge winds more than a hundred meters because of its nine twists. Franked by balustrades with square posts, it has also by its side a mid-lake pavilion in which visitors may have a cup of tea upstairs and enjoy the view all around.
Another well-known zigzag bridge lies at Gulangyu, a beautiful island just off the Fujian city of Xiamen ( Amoy ). Zigzag-going along the islet's southern shore, the bridge lies nestled against a nice garden. Standing on it at intervals are graceful pavilions known under such names as ¡°Watching Anglers¡±, ¡°A Thousand Waves¡± and ¡°Moon in Water¡±. Ramblers on the bridge draw pleasure from the feeling as if they were walking on the sea, especially when the tide is in.
The Cross Bridge ---this is a very rare bridge in China ; in fact, probably only one of its type still exists in the country. Named Yuzhaofeiliang (Flying Bridge over Fish Pond), it is situated in front of the Hall of the Goddess in Jinci Temple of Shanxi Province. It is a stone bridge with ¡°wings¡± so that it looks like a cross. The main bridge floor is 18 by 6 meters, while each wing spreads 6 meters long and 4 meters wide. Erected over a pond, in which fish play about, it also looks like a huge bird about to take off. Sightseers may get on it form any direction and cross the lake anyway they want.
According to recorded history, such cross bridges began to be built as early as the Northern Wei Dynasty (386¡ª 534 A .D.). The existing one just described is thought to have been built during the Northern Song (960¡ª1127) at the same time as the Hall of the Goddess. Nearly a thousand years old, it is generally regarded as a treasure among ancient Chinese bridges.
The pavilion Bridge---a component part of the art of landscape gardening, the pavilion bridge is often built over the surface of a quiet lake, forming a small scenic area and providing sightseers with a place for a rest, sheltered from the sun and rain.
The Five-pavilion Bridge (Wuting Qiao) in Yangzhou , Jiangsu Province, is a fine example of this style. Built in 1757 and like a belt worn on the narrow waist of Shouxihu ( Slender West Lake ), it bears five pavilions on its 55-meter-long floor. The middle pavilion is higher than the other four, which are spaced two on each side in perfect symmetry. And the middle pavilion is a double-eaved structure while the rest have only single eaves. All pavilions have their four corners upturned, with rows of tiles gathered up in the middle under a baoding (roof crown¡ªsee a previous article). The pavilion, lined up with short covered corridors, have yellow glazed tiles on the roofs but green ones for the curving ridges, forming a splendid contrast of color.
Inside the pavilions, the ceilings are decorated with colorful sunk panels and the beams and columns are carved with beautiful patterns.
The body of the stone bridge is formed on 15 arches of varying sizes, all large enough to allow the passage of boats that ply the lake.
In contrast to the exquisiteness of the pavilion, the supporting piers look sturdy and rugged. With its structural complexity the bridge may claim to be a masterpiece of it kind.
Another well-known pavilion bridge is Chengyang Bridge , also known as Fengyuqiao ( Wind-and-Rain Bridge ), on the Linxi River in the Dong Autonomous County of Sanjiang in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Built in 1916, the bridge is not so old. Its wood body, 70 meters long by 10 meters wide, rests on piers built completely of big stone blocks. Standing on it are five tile-roofed and pagoda-like pavilions connected by a long covered corridor. So the bridge may also be described as a covered bridge.
The five-stoeyed pavilions have multiple eaves, which are upturned as if about to take wing. The wall panels in the pavilions and corridors are carved with popular Dong motifs, showing marked characteristics of this ethnic minority. All the well-structured woodwork, crisscrossed with thousands of laths, purlins and rafters, were joined together by means of tenons and mortises without the use of a single nail, bearing testimony to the ingenuity of the Dong people.
These are in China a large number of bridges with pavilions and corridors; they can often be seen especially down in the south. The buildings of some bridges are so large that they could be used as meeting halls or trade markets on water.
Underground Irrigation Tunnels
In the Hami and Turpan ares of Xinjiang, there is an unusual kind of irrigation system formed by underground tunnels and wells. A system worked out by the people in the light of local climate and topography, it has a history of over 2,000 years.
These areas are extremely arid. The Turpan area, for instance, has an annual precipitation of 16 mm only but a rate of evaporation of 3,000 mm . Given such conditions, surface irrigation is evidently cut of the question. Fortunately Turpan is a basin surrounded by snow-covered mountains, which prove to be sources of abundant underground water. Making use of the land inclination, the local people succeeded in building such kan'er jing systems. Though simple in construction, the tunnels and wells represent gigantic engineering work. First many perpendicular wells are sunk at intervals of one of several dozen meters. Then underground tunnels are dug, linking up the bottoms of the wells. The sand and gravel thus excavated are usually piled around the mouths of the wells, making them look like miniature volcano crater.
The depths of the wells vary from those on high ground, which are as deep as 60¡ª70 meters, to those close to the outlet of the water, which are only a few meters.
The underground water, following the sloping tunnels, flows in a steady stream to the oases, where it is guided into open channels and finally farmlands, making an ideal system of irrigation by gravity flow.
The tunnels are generally about three kilometers long, but can be more than ten kilometers in some exceptional cases.
According to a recent count, there are in the Turpan area alone 300 underground irrigation channels. In the whole of Xinjiang, the total length of all kan'er jing is estimated at 3,000 kilometers, forming a great underground canal system. The Xinjiang kan'er jing, also known as ¡°karez¡±, is thought to have been introduced from ancient Persia . Historical sources suggest, however, it may have been developed in China proper. According to the Book on Rivers and Channels of Sima Qian's Historical Record (completed in about 90 B.C.), Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty (140¡ª87 B.C.) ordered 10,000 troops to build a canal in what was today's Shanxi Province . But the earth in these parts was loose, landslides were frequent, so wells were sunk, some as much as 40 zhang, deep, and they were linked up from below to allow the water to flow¡¡± It was thus obvious that a karez was built in China as early as 2,000 years ago. Wang Guowei (1877¡ª1927), a scholar on the history of Xinjiang, in his Channel-Building in the Northwest, offered the theory that it was people from the Han Empire who came to Xinjiang after relations were established and taught the local people how to construct underground tunnels through the soft, sandy and collapsible ground.
Visitors to Turpan as a rule wish to try the local grapes and inspect a kan'er jing irrigation system. They are right in mentioning these two things in the same breath, for without underground irrigation how could be the ¡° Land of Fames ¡± produce grapes so sweet and tasty.
Stupas and Pagodas
Stupas appeared in China with import of Buddhism and, during a long history of well over a thousand years, have become a valued part of the national Buddhist art.
¡°stupa¡±, a word from ancient Sanskrit meaning a square or round tomb or a ¡°Soul shrine¡±, was mentioned by old Chinese works under no less than half a dozen varying translations. In modern times, people call all tower-like Buddhist structure ta, which includes all types of stupas and pagodas.
At the beginning, the stupa was a reliquary for keeping the relics of ashes of a saintly Buddhist. It is said that bead-like crystals of white or some other color were often found among the ashes after cremation, and they are called shelizi or ¡°holy relics¡±.
Buddhists believe that when Sakyamuni, founder of the faith, was cremated, 84,000 beads of holy relics were found. They were shared among the kings of eight nations, who built stupas to house them for worship. This was generally thought to be the origin of stupas or pagodas. Subsequently they were built not only to bury the relics or ashes of venerable monks but also to safekeep holy scriptures and various ritual implements. They are therefore also called fota (Buddha's pagodas) or baota (treasure pagodas) and are objects of homage.
A Chinese proverb says, ¡°To save a life is a holier deed than to build a stupa of seven storeys.¡± Pagodas are mostly of seven or thirteen storeys. This is because odd numbers were supposed to be masculine and auspicious in China , but this has nothing to do with teachings of Buddhism.
Architecturally speaking, Chinese pagodas have special features of their own. A pagoda may be built of any of a number of materials---stone, brick, wood, glazed tile, iron or gold. In plan figure, it may be round, square, hexagonal or octagonal. In architectural style, it may be one of a variety of forms, which will be discussed in the following pages.
Chinese pagodas, in short, are a significant part of the country's cultural heritage. With their beautiful shapes, bas-relief carvings, dougong brackets and upturned eaves, they no longer serve religious purposes alone but are exquisite tourist attractions as well.
The close-Eaved Pagoda---this is an earliest style of Chinese pagodas, typified b the Pagoda of Chongyuesi Temple in Dengfeng County , Henan Province. Built in A.D. 523 in the North Wei Dynasty, it is also one of the oldest existing pagodas in the country.
The twelve-sided, 41-meter-tall pagoda is built entirely of blue bricks. The body is girdled round by 15 closely-arranged eves, which get smaller in beautiful proportions towards the tapering top. The inside of the pagoda is a structure of 10 floors, its octagonal rooms linked up by wooden stairs.
The Chongyusi Pagoda is of great value in the history of Chinese architecture. Constructed in an age long before the reinforced concrete was dreamed of, the all-brick structure, despite the ravages of wind and rain over 1,400 years, is still standing erect in testimony to the high level of skills at the command of the unknown ancient builders.
The Tower Pagoda---this is the most common type of pagodas seen in China , which visitors ma climb up for a bird-eye view of the surrounding country.
The world-famous Wooden Padoga in Yingxian County , Shanxi Province, is a typical tower-like pagoda. Built in 1056 during the Liao Dynasty, it is the tallest and oldest of its kind in the country. Standing on a two-tiered stone terrace and true to its name, the structure, 67.13 meters tall and 30 meters across at the bottom, is all wood. The ground storey has double eaves, so the 5-storeyed octagonal building has altogether 6 eaves. The interior of the pagoda consists of nine floors, with four of them hidden from outside view.
Structurally, the pagoda was erected by stages with separate sets of columns, beams and purlings in between every two storeys. Joining these together are dougong brackets of 50¡ª60 kinds, which hold the huge wooden structure together in an integral piece, strong and magnificent, without the help of a single piece of metal. Visitors can scale the pagoda by the wooden stairs inside, which lead up to the top floor.
It is estimated that more than 3,500 cubic meters (or about 3,000 tons) of timber must have been used to build the pagoda.
The 900-year-old Wooden Pagoda, during its long life, has been weathered by the elements, shelled on by warlords' firearms, and shaken by strong earthquakes. Though slightly tilted, it still stands majestic today---an architectural marvel not only for China but for the whole world.
The Diamond-Throne Pagoda---this type of religious architecture has its origin in India and is not often seen in China . Prominent examples are the group of pagodas in Beijing 's Zhenjuesi Temple , popularly known as Wutasi (the Five-Pagoda-Temple) because of them, and another group of Sarira-Stupas on a diamond-throne in Huhhot, Inner Mongolia . This type of pagodas have the common feature: five smaller pagodas being built on a high and solid square base called the ¡°diamond-throne¡±. The arrangement of the five pagodas, as for instance those in Beijing, is one at the center and one each at the four corners of the base, dedicated to the Buddhas of all quarters. The lower parts of the pagodas and the sides of the diamond-throne are carved with bas-relief images of Buddha, considered to be of high artistic value.
Recorded history tells us that, early in the Yongle reign (1403¡ª1423) of the Ming Dynasty, a venerable monk named Bandida came from India to Beijing and presented to the Emperor five gold statues of Buddha and a plan for a diamond-throne. The emperor bestowed on him the title of ¡°National Master¡± and ordered a temple with pagoda to be built according to his plan. The resultant structure was basically after the Indian design, with some Chinese modifications. The base was enlarged to be 1.78 meters high, while the five pagodas were reduced to about 6 meters tall. Furthermore, a Chinese pavilion of glazed tiles with a round roof and double eaves was erected in the midst of the pagodas on the platform base. It became an Indian religious structure with pronounced Chinese features¡ªan early example of the happy integration of Chinese and Indian art.
The Dagoba---the dagoba is pagoda of Tibetan style and its most remarkable example is the White Dagoda in Beijing 's Miaoyingsi ( Temple ).
The Mongolians of China were believers of the Lamaist school of Buddhism , which originated in Tibet . When Kublai Khan (Emperor Shizu) of the Yuan Dynasty united the country in 1260 he set about rebuilding a large Liao Dynasty dagoba in Beijing into the symbol of the Mongolian regime blessed with divine power to keep the capital's inhabitants and the nation in peaceful submission.
The project took eight years and was completed in 1271. The 731-year-old dagoba is like a nectar vessel or divine vase rising 50 meters towards the clouds, towering and dignified.
The dagoba consists of three parts: the base, the body and the crown. The base, covering 1,422 square meters, is a huge platform of brick representing the ¡°throne of Mt. sumeru ¡±. The main part of the body is in the shape of an upturned alms-bowl more than 18 meters across. Higher up is the part like a truncated tapering column bearing the sign of the Buddhist wheel. It carries on its top a canopy 9.7 meters across like a huge, opened umbrella. Hung from the edge of the canopy are a ring of 36 bronze bells, which tinkle in the wind. The crown of the dagoba, on the plate of the canopy, is a smaller pagoda of 4 meters, glistening with its gold plate in sunlight.
Chinese dagobas were patterned after Nepalese prototypes. The Beijing dagoba just described was designed by a Nepalese engineer known in Chinese as Anigo. So it shows in its appearance an obvious foreign artistic style. It remains an eloquent symbol of the enduring friendship between China and her Himalayan neighbour.
Mother-and-Children Pagoda---the ¡°mother-and-children pagodas¡± are an architectural complex rarely seen in China . The best-known example is the Manfeilong White Pagoda at Damenglong in Jinhong County , a district populated by the Dai nationality in Xishuang Banna , Yunnan Province.
They were built in the year 565 of the Dai calendar (A.D. 1204) as a group arrangement of nine pagodas. The one in the middle is the ¡°mother¡±, erect and elegant with her height of 16.29 meters. Standing around her at what would be the corners of regular octagon are her ¡°children¡±---eight smaller pagodas 9.1 meters high. The bottoms of the pagodas consist of niches containing statues of Buddha. Viewed from above, the group resembles a lotus blossom with its petals open. The pagodas have snow-white bodies and golden tips and, seen through the green foliage of trees, also look like new bamboo shoots after a rain, a familiar sight to the local people, so the Dai also call them by the pet name ¡°bamboo-shoot pagoda¡±.
Legend has it that Sakymmuni, founder of Buddhism, once came to sermonize at Damenglong and left a huge footprint, 58 cm by 85 cm , on a blue rock. In commemoration of this important event, local followers built the group of nine pagodas on the same rock where he had stood. For this association, they are held in high esteem by Buddhist circles and many pilgrims come here from different quarters to pay homage.
The Manfeilong Pagodas are noted for their peculiar shape and beautiful style, and also for the pronounced Dai flavour shown by the bas-relief-carving and sculpture. They are therefore a cultural marvel in the southwestern region of the country.
Forest of Pagoda ---as a pagoda is the burial place of monks, a ¡°forest of pagodas¡± may be said to be the graveyard of Buddhists.
One of such forests belongs to the famous Shaolin Monastery in Dengfeng County , Henan Province. With its 220 brick pagodas, it is the resting place of the abbots and senior monks of the monastery who lived at various times under several dynasties, from the Tang to the Qing, spanning a thousand years. It is the forest of pagodas of the largest scale and built over the longest stretch of time.
The pagodas, mostly decorated with carvings and inscriptions, are generally of three to seven storeys and of varying heights up to 15 meters. They are of different forms: square or hexagon in cross-section, a column, a cone or a vase in shape, with straight or curving lines.
Another rare ¡°forest of pagodas¡± lies in the vicinity of Lingyansi ( Temple ) in Shangdong Province . It comprises 176 pagodas of a variety of attractive form, also built at different times since the Tang Dynasty.
These pagodas, in Henan Shangdong and elsewhere, are a valuable storehouse of information about various sects of Chinese Buddhism, and about the arts of sculpture and architecture of different ages.
Beijing City Gates
In times of yore Beijing consisted of an outer city and an inner city, with the imperial city (otherwise known as Forbidden City, or the Former Imperial Palace ) contained in the inner city. Altogether there were 20 city gates. Entering or exiting these gates by carts and horses was governed by hard-and-fast regulations. The following is a brief introduction of it.
These are nine gates for the inner city which used to be on what is today's Second Ring Road.
First, Zhengyang (South-Facing) Gate. The Zhengyang Gate is for the exclusive use of royal sedan chairs and carts to show the supremacy of the feudal monarchs. The gate stands to the south of Tian'anmen Square ; during the Ming and Qing it was the front gate of the inner city of Beijing . Built in 1419 or the 17 th year of the Yongle reign of the Ming, it is by far the only well-preserved city gate tower in Beijing .
Second, Xuanwu Gate, or Gate of Military Virtue. Known in old days as Gate of Complaisant Rule, it was the gate for prison vans. Felons sentenced to death by decapitation were escorted through this gate to the executioner's ground at Caishikou south of the city.
Thirdly, Fucheng Gate or Mound-Formed Gate. It was the gateway for coal transportation in ancient times. In ancient times Beijing got its coal supplied from Mentougou on the western outskirts, and the Fucheng Gate was the only gateway for coal-shipping carts.
Fourth, Xizhi Gate or Straight West Gate. Known I the past as Gate of Peaceful Righteousness, the Xizhi Gate was for tanks transporting water from Yuquan Hill to the imperial city. At the time the emperors drank water only from the Yuquan Hill.
Fifth, Desheng Gate, or Gate of Moral Trimmph. It was the gate through which the imperial army returned to the capital from an expedition.
Sixth, the Anding Gate, or Gate of Peace and Stability. The Anding Gate was for carts transporting night soil out of the city. There is something symbolic about the name of this gate, which means Gate of Stability.
Seventh, Dongzhi Gate, or Gate of Worship of Benevolence, was opened exclusively for timber transportation. For this reason it is also known as Gateway of Firewood.
Eight, Chaoyang Gate or Sun-Facing Gate, also known as Gate of Homogeneous Civilization. It was the city's passageway for grain transportation. That is why there were quite a few imperial granaries inside the gate. These included the Lumi Granary, the Nanmen Granary, and the Qianliang Granary.
Ninth, Chongwen Gate or the Gate of Literary Virtue. Known otherwise as Hade (or Hada) Gate, it was the gateway through which liquor and wine were brought into the city.
There were seven gates for the outer city: Guangqu, Guang'an, Zuo'an, You'an, Dongbian, Xibian and Yongding. During the Ming, to protect south Beijing as a commercial and handicraft center, the imperial court had planned for the construction of an outer city wall around the imperial city, but due to financial difficulties only part of the wall was erected in southern Beijing . Seven gates were opened into this wall for the convenient of local residents.
Access to the imperial city was by four gates, Tian'an, Di'an, Dong'an and Xi'an , which were for the exclusive use of officials and generals going to and from the imperial court. These gates were off limits to commoners. Few of these gates exist now, as most of them have been torn down, but their names have remained.
Passes were defence fortifications in ancient China . Born of war, they were built at points of strategic importance.
In the early days passes were built of rammed earth and masonry at places easily defended and hard to be conquered. Later, cities were developed around the passes. Countless passes were built in ancient China . The nine best known ones are Shanhai Pass ,, Jurong Pass , Zijing Pass , Niangzi Pass , Pingxing Pass , Yanmen Pass , Jiayu Pass , Wusheng Pass and Youyi Pass.
The passes fall roughly in two types: those on the Great Wall and those on postal routes. The passes built on the Great Wall were regarded as national defence facilities. At the eastern terminus of the Great Wall to the northeast of Qinhuangdao stands Shanhai Pass , which holds vital access between northeast and central China . Reputedly the most important pass on the eastern section of the Ming-dynasty Great Wall, Shanhai Pass is therefore billed as ¡°No. 1 Pass on the Great Wall¡±. On the Western terminus of the Great Wall stands Jiayu Pass , an imposing citadel with the gobi desert to the north and the Qilian Mountain to the south. For its vital strategic importance as a major transportation hub on the celebrated Silk Road for economic and cultural exchange between China and the West in ancient times, Jiayu Pass is billed as ¡° First Formidable Pass under Heaven¡±. Other major passes on the Great Wall that played a major role in resisting foreign invaders and defending the national territory include Juyong Pass of Beijing and Niangzi Pass of Shanxi Province. Many of the passes on the Great Wall have been placed under government protection as key cultural heritage sites.
The passes on postal roads may be regarded as regional fortresses. A common feature about these passes is that virtually all of them were on provincial or county boundaries. Though not as large as those on the Great Wall, they were also strategically located for defence purposes. In warring periods they were often bones of contention between rivaling strategists. Major postal road passes in existence today are Loushan Pass of Guizhou, Jianmen Pass of Sichuan, Yanmen Pass of Shanxi, Tiemen Pass of Xinjiang, and Guimen Pass of Guangxi, which have all become popular scenic spots today.
The lingxing Gate, also known as Heavenly Gate or Gate of Dragon and Phoenix , was a kind of ancient structure built in different places with different meanings. More often than not they stood in front of mausoleums, altars and temples dedicated to emperors. The Lingxing Gate comprises baluster columns and decorated tie-beams. The space between the columns has three to nine partitions which are either blocked with walls or left open with gates to symbolize access to heaven¡ªmeaning that the deceased could ascend the sky once through this gate.
The Lingxing Gate is also found in front of Confucian temples to symbolize the Confucian school's willingness to accept people with talent and virtue.
Hakka Castle-Like Dwellings
The Hakka people inhabiting southeast China are known for the distinctive style of their dwellings in a variety of castle-like designs. They are round or square, and there are also those in the style of big mansions or in the shape of the Eight Diagrams.
These castle-like dwellings go back a long way in history. The Hakkas, who had moved from central China and settled in the south after the Western Jin Dynasty, developed this unique style of house construction, but it was not until after the Qing that their dwellings began to grow in height and size to function as fortifications. A mixture of clay, ash and bran was the major construction material for these dwellings, which are reinforced with bamboo and timber. A typical Hakka dwelling is a 10-meter-high structure with three to five floors, and the walls, more than one meter in thickness, were built of earth repeated rammed until they became sturdy enough against earthquake and intruders. Each dwelling covers an area of over 1,000 square meters, with 30 or so houses on each floor. Thus a dwelling with more than 100 rooms is large enough to accommodate 100¡ª300 people. Access to such a dwelling is by a single gate, and a well was dug inside it to supply drinking water. Some Hakka dwellings are fashioned in the shape of a palace richly decorated with carved beams and lacquered pillars. Most phenomenal of all the Hakka dwellings are a kind of round castle, in which houses are arranged in three mutually containing circles. In some places a single castle-like Hakka dwelling is seen atop a mountain, or several or a dozen such dwellings are clustered in a tiny basin. They are evocative of ancient Roman castles, yet each looks distinctive in its Hakka architectural style.
The term ¡°Hakka¡± means ¡°outsiders¡±---the Hakka people were settlers from north. That is why elements of central Chinese architecture, such as symmetry and a clear distinction between the centerpiece and the ancillary structures, are palpable in their dwellings. As newcomers small in number and meager in strength, they were is dire need of a kind of dwelling that could ward them off invaders and allow them to live in a compact community and rally their strength against any possible invasion.
The castle-like dwellings in Yongding, Fujiang Province , are definitely the finest examples of Hakka architecture, which attract a constant stream of visitors from at home and abroad.
Eaves tiles are small accessories in classical Chinese architecture fixed at the end of rafters for decoration and for shielding the eaves from wind and rain.
Eaves tiles emerged as a culture in their own light during the Zhou (C. 11 th century ¨C771 B.C) and reached their zenith during the Qin and Han (221 B.C.¡ª 220 A .D.). In the intervening years they underwent the transition from a half-round design to a cylindrical design, and from plain surface to decorative patterns, from intaglio to bas-relief carvings, from lifelike imagery to abstraction, and from patterns to inscriptions, until they became an art that involved language, literature, aesthetics, calligraphy, carving, decoration and architecture, with themes that ran the gamut from nature and ecology to mythology, totems, history, palaces, yamens, mausoleums, place names, auspicious phrase, folklore, and family names. Together the eaves tiles form a history book that reflects vividly the natural scenery, humanities and political science and economics. The Beijing Museum of Ancient Ceramic Civilization is billed as the nation's first exhibition center of ancient eaves tiles: its collection of more than 400 eaves tiles has no lack of rare and valuable pieces of art.