Paifang, also called Pailou, is a memorial architectural form that is uniquely Chinese. It is an archway usually made of fine wood or stone, and painted or ornamented with glazed tiles. Calligraphers are usually requested to write moral inscriptions that are carved onto the middle beam. These structures usually stand in downtown areas, or at the entrances of mausoleums, temples, bridges and parks.
The completed structure is a perfect representation of the harmony between ancient Chinese architectural modeling art and sculpting art, both of which enjoy long histories and have great artistic value. The structure also mirrors feudal ethics and traditional norms in ancient China. It acted as a physical manifestation of those ethics and norms.
Famous Arches in Shexian:
Eight-Posted Archway (Xuguo Stone Fang)
It is located in the downtown of Shexian County. Originally built in Wanli's reign of the Ming Dynasty in 1584.The structure, with eight pillars, is 11.4 meters high, 11.54 meters long, 6.77 meters wide. Researches have revealed that it is so far the only arch that has eight posts in China. It was built to commemorate Xuguo - a loyal official who served through three reigns of the Ming. The whole building was composed of large pieces of stone, each of which weighs 4-5 tons. The most attracting part of the archway is her stone carvings, which show the unique technique of the local style. The whole structure is covered by different designs of carvings, such as couples of phoenixes, flying dragons and other beasts of prey. The pictures are vivid, and the carvings are elegant and exquisite, which present excellent workmanship.
Four-Posted and Four-bronted Memorial Arch (Sizhu Simian Fang)
Built in the years of Jiaqing's reign in the Ming Dynasty (1522-1566), the arch locates beside the pavement at the entrance to Feng Kou village, in Shecounty. The three-storied, four-posted buliding is actually a square compound of four closed individual arches, each side of which is 3.8 meters long and 11 meters high. Inscriptions on the tablet commemorate successful candidates in the highest imperial exam.
Ye Chastity Arch (Yeshi Zhenjie Fang)
This arch is 6 meters high and 4.3 meters wide, built in the Doushan Street in 1391. It is famous for a broad writing "Sheng Zhi" (the royal decree of the emperors), inscribed in the years of Qianlong's reign in the Qing dynasty. The eave of the arch writes 'Chastity door in praise of Ye's the wife of Jiang Laipu." Ye, whose husband died at her 25, took care of her mother-in-law after her husband's death. The arch was built to commemorate her filial piety.
Wu Ma Arch
Built in the second of Zhengde's reign in the Ming dynasty (1507), Wu Ma Arch was located in the ancient street in Xuchun, Shexian country. The arch has four posts, three gates and five storied. "Wu Ma" is a refined title for imperial officials. Head official of Dingzou District, Fujian province, built the arch.
San Yuan Arch
The arch is 6 meters high and 5.5 meter wide. "San Yuan" refers to "Zhuang Yuan", "Hui Yuan" and "Xie Yuan" - inscriptions on the beams, which means the three supreme titles awarded to the winners of the imperial examinations. It was supported by four pillars mark the successful candidates who participated in the exam.
Huang's Unswervingly Loyal Arch (Huangshi Xiaoliemen Fang)
Located in the Doushan Street, the arch was built in 1650, 7.5 meters high and 6.4 meters wide with three gates and three storied. It is a chastity arch (mostly for widowed women exclusively) to praise Huang's loyalty to her husband.
Shuangshou Cheng'en Arch
It is located in the east of Gaoyang Bridge in Xucun village. It was said that the arch was built for a 100-year-old couple, thus on the broad of the middle gate writes "Shuangshou Cheng'en."