Chinese Wooden Architecture, One of the Three Greatest Architectural Systems

Ancient Chinese architecture is a beautiful gem as well as an integral part of Chinese culture. It is also one of the three greatest architectural systems in the world, the other two being European and Arabic architecture.

The main differences between Chinese traditional architecture and other parts of the world lie in the building materials. While most ancient Western buildings were constructed with stones, ancient Chinese people simply loved wooden architectures. Particularly, the load-bearing timber-framed structures stand out as the most distinctive symbol of the traditional Chinese architectural culture.

According to archaeological discoveries, Chinese people began to develop this unique construction style as early as more than 5,000 years ago. Generations after generations and dynasties after dynasties, Chinese carpenters and artisans had ingeniously invented a great number of wooden components to build flexible and earthquake-resistant structures for durable dwellings, magnificent temples and grandiose palaces.

Dougong(斗拱), Bracket set

Dougong, or bracket set, is not only a unique structural element, but also one of the most important members in traditional Chinese architecture.

Thanks to the interlocking wooden bracket, the eaves of some buildings could project out as far as more than 4 meters, thus providing vital protection for the wooden structure and mud walls from weather damage.

The bracket sets also provide a vertical support for the uplifted roof edges, or the so-called flying eaves, designed to let light penetrate into the interior of a building.

Most monumental buildings in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) employed a big number of large Dougong to support projecting and flying eaves.

Apart from its practical function, Dougong had also been used in ancient Chinese architecture for its ornamental appeal. Usually, the more important the building was, the more complex the Dougong would be.

Wujia(屋架), Truss

Wujia, or truss, is a framework of beams, rafters and posts forming a structure to support a roof. In ancient China, trusses were almost always made of wood.

Over thousands of years, Chinese trusses slowly developed distinct features. Chinese wooden trusses were mostly rectangular with tenon-and-mortise works and bracket sets while Western countries usually built triangular trusses.

Typically, ancient Chinese roofs were supported by beams and pillars rather than walls. Due to semi-rigid tenon-and-mortise works, such frameworks were better at shock absorption, which made such buildings safer in the event of an earthquake.

The former used two or more levels of post and lintel structure to uphold the roof and the latter used square logs to bind together pillars and posts to provide support to the roof.

The post-and-lintel construction was widely applied in official buildings, temples and folk houses in the northern part of the country, while the post-and-baulk construction was often seen in the south.

However, sometimes, both wooden roof trusses were used in the same building.

Zaojing(藻井), Caisson Ceiling

As a distinctive architectural feature of temples or palaces in ancient China, Zaojing, or caisson ceiling, is an ornamental sunken panel in a ceiling or dome.

Using mainly the mechanism of Dougong (bracket set), the caisson is built with multiple interlocking layers of wood structural members. They are always richly carved, decorated or painted and appear in shapes such as square, circle, hexagon and sometimes a combination of these shapes.

As a symbol of sanctity, the caisson is always located directly above the most important part of a temple or palace, such as the throne or an altar. So, the center of a caisson is often decorated with bas-relief carving or painting of dragons or other sacred creatures.

Apart from its function for decoration, the caisson ceiling also represents one of the 28 lunar mansions in the Chinese constellations system, which is in charge of water. Since most ancient Chinese buildings were built with wood, the owners wished to have a virtual water source in the building to prevent fire hazards.

So, often one can find caisson ceilings in ancient Chinese buildings decorated with carvings or paintings of aquatic plants, such as lotus and water chestnuts.

Today, some most representative ancient Chinese wooden architectures are still in existence. For instance, Yingxian Wooden Pagoda or Sakyamuni Pagoda of Fogong Temple in northern China’s Shanxi Province is the oldest and highest surviving all-wood tower. Also, the Forbidden City in Beijing is the largest wooden architectural complex in the world.



Tianhe Pool Scenic Area, Full of Beautiful Natural Scenery

The tianhechi scenic area, 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) southwest of guiyang city, guizhou province, is made up of waterfalls, crystal springs, deep pools, stone Bridges and grotesque caves. This is a typical cave, stone curtain with a lot of stalagmites, stalactites and stone columns. It covers 15 square kilometers (5.8 square miles). The scenic spot is an excellent tourist destination, full of beautiful natural scenery and cultural displays.

Tianhechi scenic area was originally a large hole, pool bottom water. There are clear rivers, hidden caves, silos, cliffs and stone Bridges in the scenic area, which can be divided into three parts: water cave, dry cave and outside scenic area.

The tunnel is 1,000 meters (0.6 miles) long, 80 meters (262.5 feet) wide at its widest point and 20 meters (65.6 feet) narrow at its narrowest point. You can visit the water cave by boat. Boating and enjoying the journey from the light outside to the darkness inside and back into the sun is a wonderful experience for visitors. It is recommended to use a flashlight because the inside of the cave is quite dark. Outside, under the water hole, is wolverhampton lake, where you can see all kinds of farm equipment, such as water trucks in a farmhouse. In the tianhechi scenic area, caves and green vegetation can be seen everywhere.

Water hole is near the tianhechi scenic area of the dry hole. Just in front of these two caves is a deep pool surrounded by cliffs. The arid cave is made up of three layers, with a total length of 200 meters (656.2 feet). Of the three, the third is the most dangerous. Here, a stone bridge spans two cliffs. This is called the inner river bridge, under which is a bottomless pit. To the right of the dry cave exit is a miao village. Visitors can experience a local miao wedding there.

This area is a great place for tourists from home and abroad to enjoy the wonders of the beautiful lakes, hills, caves and karst peaks. This is a must-see in guiyang. Also, if you want to experience more of the countryside, you can take a horse or ox carriage to the scenic spot.

Qingyan Ancient Town, the Most Famous Historical Town in Guizhou

Qingyan ancient town, located in the southern suburb of guiyang, is one of the famous historical and cultural cities in guizhou province. Founded in 1378, qingyan is an ancient town covering an area of 300 hectares (740 acres). Today, due to its long history and strong cultural atmosphere, the town has become an attractive destination for many domestic and foreign tourists.

Qingyan town was built in the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644) for military reasons. Because of its location, zhu yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty, established it as a place to convey military messages and accommodate standing armies. After years of modification and restoration, qingyan ancient town gradually became an ancient town with cultural characteristics of the Ming and qing dynasties (1644-1911).

Although the ancient town of qingyan is small in area, it has a reasonable architectural style, hundreds of ruins and profound cultural deposits.

Due to the local geological conditions, qingyan ancient town is built entirely of stone. Visitors will be able to see the spectacular walls built on the cliffs, where huge rocks divide the bluestone into inner and outer parts. There were four doors on the wall, facing north, south, east and west. Beyond the four gates, there are originally eight stone tablets, which are considered to be the symbol of qingyan ancient town. Of the eight pieces, three have elaborate sculptures on each surface. One of the most famous is zhao ethics-baisui (longevity star) fang.

Walking into the inner city, visitors are sure to marvel at the ancient buildings. Monasteries, temples, pavilions, caves, courtyards, palaces and more than 30 kinds. They were all designed by highly skilled architects in the Ming and qing dynasties. The stone carvings of ciyun temple, the wood carvings of shou Buddha temple and other exquisite items are worth a look. You can visit the old commercial street and enjoy the elegant classical wooden houses. If you like, go to those teahouses and sample some of the famous local snacks, such as smoked tofu, rice tofu and brown sugar.

It is also rich in religious culture, including Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism and Christianity. If you are interested in Buddhism, you can take this opportunity to learn the typical buddhist culture here. At the same time, you will also be impressed by the Taoist way of speaking. What’s more, you’d be surprised how many of its residents are Catholic and Christian, since Catholicism was introduced by a French priest in 1851 and Christianity nearly 70 years ago. When traveling there, visitors will hear stories of many historical figures who were born or lived here. The first “no.1 scholar” in guizhou in qing dynasty was Mr. Zhao yijiong, who was born and raised in qingyan town. Dr. Sun yat-sen’s general secretary, Mr. Chang pinggang, was a countryman of qingyan town.

Qianling Hill Park, a 4A National Tourist Attraction

Located 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from downtown guiyang, qianlingshan park covers an area of 426 hectares (1,052.7 acres). It was built in 1957, is the city’s only large park, is a national 4A tourist attractions. The name comes from qianling mountain in the park, the most famous mountain in southern guizhou. It is one of the most famous gardens on the guizhou plateau, with clear lakes, green mountains, tranquil forests and ancient temples. The main attractions are: sanling bay, rhesus monkey park, hongfu temple, qilin cave, zoo, qianling lake, erba wind and rain bridge and winding mountain road.

Founded in 1667, it is the largest buddhist zen temple in guizhou province. It is characterized by solemnity. Hongfu means to carry forward Buddha’s virtue and benefit mankind. It is now one of 142 key temple scenic spots in China and a key cultural relic protection unit in guizhou province.

“Hongfu” means “good luck” in Chinese, and given the temple’s history, it’s a fitting name. In 1672, the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) monk ji song established the temple. It had a poor start, just a small hut, but kishon was determined to turn it into a sacred shrine, and through his insistence, many local officials gave it their support. The temple in time is when you visit the temple in qianlingshan park, upon entering the gate, you will first see the bell tower and drum tower on both sides. Weighing more than 3,000 jin (about 3,300 pounds), the bell was cast during the Ming dynasty in 1469.

Enter the first hall, the temple of the heavenly king, and you can see the statues of maitreya and the four heavenly Kings. Its walls are also covered with buddhist scriptures and large paintings. The second main hall is the guanyin bodhisattva hall and the thirty-two arms hall. In the third hall known as the main hall, there are such gold-plated statues as sakyamuni and eight arhats. There is also a jade Buddha statue from yangon, the capital of myanmar. It is 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) tall and weighs 900 kilograms (1,984 pounds). Carved from fine jade, the statue looks both benevolent and solemn, and stands alongside a dozen other jade statues of bodhisattvas and maitreya.

In addition to these ornate halls, the temple is also decorated with galleries, pools and springs of high artistic value. In recent years, many famous people have visited the temple and, in accordance with Chinese tradition, left poems praising the inspiring building and its setting. Strolling through the temple complex, you can enjoy the tranquil surroundings while recalling its glorious past.

Nanjiang Grand Canyon in Kaiyang County

The nanjiang grand canyon is located in kaiyang county, 54 kilometers (34 miles) from guiyang city. Here, visitors can see the unique karst landscape, with views of more than 80 natural landscapes and 40 waterfalls. The canyon stretches for more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) and reaches a depth of 398 meters (1,306 feet). Birds and 36 species of animals live in harmony in pristine forests and on steep cliffs. Here, canoeing down the river is a must.

The starting point is near the gate, and you’ll pass most of the sights along the way. There are two rafting options: the entire rafting route ends at yuanyang lake, while the shorter route ends halfway at caozi pool. If you choose the latter, you’ll need to walk another three kilometers (two miles) along the feilong plank road to yuanyang lake. If you’re not a rafting enthusiast, you can take a free shuttle bus to the main section of the nanjiang grand canyon at the entrance to start your rafting trip.

This is your first attraction at the nanjiang grand canyon. Part of the cliff extends out, making it a natural pavilion on the river. A small waterfall runs down the cliff, like a curtain of pearls hanging from a pavilion.

This is the largest and best protected travertine waterfall in Asia, with a height of 16 meters (52 feet). It is called the admiralty bell because people can hear the bell when they knock on the rock. Yuanyang lake in the nanjiang grand canyon stretches for eight kilometers (five miles) along a lush valley. In winter, thousands of wild ducks live and breed there, hence the name.

Here you can find rocks in various shapes, some of which look like a Buddha, a monkey, a seal, a trumpet… Once you arrive at yuanyang lake, you can take a cable car or walk to the peak and take a free shuttle bus back to the gate. Alternatively, you can walk along the boardwalk back to the gate.

Jingyuetan National Forest Park, a Crescent Shaped Reservoir

The jingyuecan national forest park is located near changchun’s movie wonderland, southeast of changchun, and 18 kilometers (10 miles) from the city center. It covers an area of about 96.38 square kilometers (37.2 square miles), with wetlands of about 5.3 square kilometers (2 square miles).

Jingyuetan is a crescent-shaped reservoir. Its height is comparable to the Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan, known as the sister lake of the Sun Moon Lake. According to a legend, a fairy from heaven happened to fall in love with a man. The fairy’s mother brought her back by force. The distraught fairy left two tears and formed two lakes, one is the Sun Moon Lake, the other is the jingyue lake. According to records, jingyuetan was built in 1934 to supply water to changchun. It was named after zheng xiaoyu, the second son of zheng xiaoyu, who was once the prime minister of manchukuo.

Jingyuetan national forest park is rich in natural resources. It includes a large forest covering more than 80 square kilometers (30 square miles). There are more than 550 kinds of trees in the park, such as scotch pine, larch, red pine, Japanese red pine, spruce, fir, birch, Mongolian oak and northeast walnut. In addition, there are a variety of birds, wild animals and insects, such as pheasants, wild ducks, squirrels, hedgehogs, roe deer and foxes.

The Jingyuetan National Forest Park features the Forest Bathing Spot, Jingyue Wetland, Siberian Tiger Garden, Guantan Hill, Green Pine Ridge, Jingyue Goddess Statue, Lotus and Willow Garden, Bisong Jingyue Tower, Peace Bell Tower, a boardwalk, a tomb of Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234) on Stone Sheep and Tiger Hill, Jingyuetan Reservoir, Vasaloppet Museum, Wangtan Bridge, North Putuo Temple and a snow sculpture garden as its main attractions. For sports enthusiasts, there are a golf course and a ski resort inside the park.