Essay On Chinese Architecture

Traditional Vs. Modern Architecture In China

Traditional culture in architecture is being eroded by modernity of the present architecture in China. Analyze the causes and effects of this problem and possible solutions.

In China, urbanization is at dramatic pace but in static patterns. This leads to the Chinese cities losing their own styles, and being built in the static architecture modes which are introduced from developed countries. Moreover, the traditional architecture cultures are being eroded by the static modern architecture patterns. Some of them are even on the boundary of extinction. Recently, architects in China have shown an increasing interest in the issue of traditional architecture in the modern era. This paper studies on the causes and effects of the erosion of the modernity to the traditional architecture and the possible solutions. It will be divided into three parts: the first part focuses on the causes and effects; the second part presents the combination of modern architecture and traditional culture; the third part concerns the cultivation enhancement of Chinese architects.

In the process of development of human society, architecture and culture are inseparable. Cuthbert (1985) indicates that architecture, with its unique art form, expresses the level of human culture in different historical stages, as well as the yearning towards the future. According to his article, it can be said that architecture has become one of the physical means for human to change the world and to conquer the nature. Consequently, architecture has been an important component of human civilization. Since 1980s when China started the opening and reforming policy, a variety of architectural ideas, schools and styles have sprung up. Accompanying with a momentum of the construction industry, in large or small cities, blocks of modern office buildings, business centers and residential districts full of “modern temperament” emerged everywhere in China. Although there are many success works, the “modern temperament” is indeed threatening the status of traditional architecture.

In fact, cities in China are constructed rapidly yet monotonously. The development of modern architecture design in China cannot match with the splitting urbanization. In the major cities of China, there is almost no difference and few characters of architecture in Chinese cities. (there are almost no differences between the architectures and only a few of them have characters) The reason of this phenomenon is that in the present architecture in China, the traditional culture is confronted with an all-out threat of modernity,and is being eroded slowly. For example, a large-scale commercial pedestrian street called Luoma Market was planned to be constructed in a historical and cultural relic of the ancient site near the Bell Tower in Xi’an (a historical city on the northwest of China) (a historical city located in the northwestern of China). Due to the investors’ one-sided pursuit of modernization and...

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The majority of books about Chinese architecture are general overviews. Overview books tend to be highly descriptive and heavily illustrated. They are organized according to chronology, building type, or region. Multi-volume overviews are usually multi-authored or produced by research institutes. They are intended to be library references and often include some of the best photographs available of Chinese buildings. Books listed as textbooks include numerous line drawings, often the author’s own. The eight books included in this section represent each major type of general overview: Chinese Academy of Architecture 1982 is a short version of the multivolume surveys; Institute of History 1986 and Tanaka 1998 are technical overviews for sophisticated readers; Li 1986 and Shanxisheng 1986 are regional surveys of the province with China’s greatest number of old buildings; Steinhardt 1984 and Zhongguo jianzhu shi lunwen xuanji 1983 are overviews presented as essays on China’s most important buildings by major authors; and Stein 1990 is the presentation of architecture and related topics by a Sinologist.

  • Chinese Academy of Architecture. Ancient Chinese Architecture. Hong Kong and Beijing: Joint Publishers, 1982.

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    An excellent selection of the core monuments of Chinese architecture.

  • Institute of the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences. History and Development of Ancient Chinese Architecture. Beijing: Science Press, 1986.

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    Rare example of collaborative research by a Chinese institute that has been translated into English. Organization is by building material, making the book harder to use than many chronological surveys. However, the translator did a fine job of presenting technical subjects in English.

  • Li Yuming 李玉明, ed. Shanxi gu jianzhu tonglan (山西古建築通攬). Taiyuan: Shanxi renmin, 1986.

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    Seventy percent of China’s pre-13th-century architecture is in Shanxi province. This book provides beautiful illustrations of Shanxi’s most important buildings in color, including some of the lesser-known ones.

  • Shanxisheng gu jianzhu baohu yanjiusuo 山西省古建築保护研究所. Zhongguo gu jianzhu xueshu jiangzuo wenji (中国古建筑学术讲座文集). Beijing: Xinhua shudian, 1986.

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    Essays by major architectural historians about buildings in China’s most important province for the study of old wooden architecture.

  • Stein, Rolf. The World in Miniature. Translated by Phyllis Brooks. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990.

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    Fascinating book by one of France’s greatest Sinologists. Offers much material relevant to Chinese architecture that is not available in more standard studies.

  • Steinhardt, Nancy S. Chinese Traditional Architecture. New York: China Institute, 1984.

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    Essays on selected Chinese buildings written in conjunction with an exhibition at the Chinese Institute.

  • Tanaka, Tan 田中淡. Chūgoku geijutsushi no kenkyū (中國技術史の研究). Kyoto: Kyōto Daigaku Jinbun Kagaku Kenkyūjo, 1998.

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    Comprehensive, technical study of Chinese architecture by one of Japan’s most outstanding historians of East Asian architecture. Based on primary source research and with excellent illustrations.

  • Zhongguo jianzhu shi lunwen xuanji (中國建築史論文選集). 2 vols. Taipei: Wen ming shu ju, 1983.

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    Collected essays, many unattributed, on the most important topics of Chinese architectural history.

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