Archive for August, 2015

Dian Kingdom

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4792

Dian Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dian Kingdom
4th century BCE–109 BCE
Bronze sculpture depicting Dian people, 3rd century BCE.
Capital Not specified
Government Monarchy
 – Established 4th century BCE
 – Annexed by Han 109 BCE

The Dian Kingdom (simplified Chinese: 滇王国; traditional Chinese: 滇國) was established by the Dian people, who lived around Dian Lake in northern Yunnan,China from the late Spring and Autumn period until theEastern Han dynasty. The Dian buried their dead in vertical pit graves.The Dian like spoke Tibeto-Burman languages.Dian was annexed by theHan dynasty during the southward expansion of the Han dynasty. In 109 BCE, Han campaigns against Dian led to the establishment of the Yizhou commandery by the Han.


A bronze cowry shell vessel (cowries were once used as currency) with oxen and tigers made by the Dian people during the Western Han (202 BCE – 9 CE)

Seal of the Kingdom of Dian

The Dian were first mentioned historically in Sima Qian‘s Records of the Grand Historian; according to Chinese sources, General Zhuang Qiao of Chu was the founder of the Dian Kingdom. Sent to conquer the “barbarian peoples” of the area, he and his army were prevented from going back to Chu by enemy armies, so he settled down and became king of the new Dian Kingdom The soldiers who accompanied him married natives.

The kingdom was located around Kunming; it was surrounded on its east by theYelang tribes, to the west by Kunming tribes, and to the north in Chengdu by theHan Chinese, and had relations with all of them.

It is said that during the reign of King Qingxiang of Chu (298-236 BCE), a military force was sent on a mission to the lands of the Ba and Shu (modern Sichuan), Qinzong (Guizhou), and the Dian Kingdom (Kunming, Yunnan). Native women married the Chu soldiers, who stayed in the area.

Emperor Han Wudi of the Han dynasty dispatched military forces against the Dian in 109 BC

The Dian were subjugated by the Han under the reign of Emperor Wu of Han in 109 BCE. The Dian King willingly received the Chinese invasion in the hopes of assistance against rival tribes. It was at this time he received his seal from the Chinese, and became a tributary.

Han campaigns against Dian lead to its territory being incorporated into Yizhou Commandery (Chinese: 益州, modern Sichuan) but left the king of Dian as local ruler until a rebellion during the rule of Emperor Zhao of Han. The Han proceeded with colonization and conquered the people of Kunming in 86 and 82 BCE, reachingBurma.

REIGN 87–74 BC
SUCCESSOR Prince He of Changyi
SPOUSE Empress Shangguan
Liu Fuling 劉弗陵
Shĭyúan 始元 (86 BC – 80 BC)
Yúanfèng 元鳳 (80 BC – 75 BC)
Yúanpíng 元平 (74 BC)
Short: Emperor Zhao (昭帝) “accomplished”
Full: Xiaozhao Huangdi (孝昭皇帝) “filial and accomplished”
Zhōngzōng (中宗)
HOUSE House of Liu
FATHER Emperor Wu of Han
MOTHER Consort Zhao, Lady Gouyi
DIED 74 BC (aged 20)

Royal burials

The Dian buried their kings at Shizhaishan, which was uncovered in 1954 near Shizhai Village in Jinning County, Yunnan. The burials were identified by the inscription King Dian’s Seal. The inscription was written in seal script on a gold imperial seal of investiture given by the Han Emperor. Sima Qian noted that the Dian were one of only two local groups to have received an imperial seal, the other being Yelang. Both have survived: the Yelang seal emerged in 2007 from a Hmong man in Guizhou, claiming to be the Yelang king’s 75th generation descendant.

Bronze working

Bronze sculpture of the Dian Kingdom (felines attacking an ox), 3rd century BCE,Yunnan, China.

The Dian people were sophisticated metal workers, casting both bronze and iron. The Dian cast bronze objects using both the piece mould method and the lost wax method. Dian elite burials contained an impressive array of bronze objects, although late Dian burials also contained locally cast iron objects.

Large bronze drums were employed by the Dian to communicate in battle; ritual burials of Dian elites were accompanied by large bronze drums filled with cowrie shells. The tops of the drums were removed and replaced by a bronze lid.

Scythian influences?

Iaroslav Lebedynsky and Victor H. Mair speculate that some Scythians may also have migrated to the area of Yunnan in southern China following their expulsion by the Yuezhi in the 2nd century BCE. Excavations of the prehistoric art of the Dian civilization of Yunnan have revealed hunting scenes of Caucasoid horsemen in Central Asian clothing. The scenes depicted on these drums sometimes represent these horsemen practicing hunting. Animal scenes of felines attacking oxen are also at times reminiscent of Scythian art both in theme and in composition.

Depiction of Dian society

Close-up face of a Dian Kingdom person. Bronze sculpture, 3rd century BCE, Yunnan,China.

The bronze lids were covered with miniature figurines and structures, depicting various scenes from the life of the Dian people. The bronze lids depicted the Dian people engaged in everyday activities such as hunting, farming and weaving. Other scenes depicted the leisurely pursuits of the Dian people, such as bullfighting, dancing and music-making. The Dian people dressed in tunics over short pants and wore their hair in topknots. The bronze lids corroborated Sima Qian’s description of the Dian hairstyle.

Many scenes depicted the Dian at war, often riding horses. Archaeological evidence shows that horses had been domesticated by the Dian people as early as the sixth century BCE. The bronze lids also depicted the Dian decapitating their enemies (who wore their hair in long plaits).

The Kingdom was based on agriculture, the bronzes also showed head hunting, human sacrifice, and slaves as part of Dian society.

Underwater ruins

Main article: Fuxian Lake

Belt ornament of the Dian Kingdom, 2nd century BCE.

Archaeologists recently discovered the inundated remains of Dian-period buildings and pottery fragments under Fuxian Lake and were able to verify their age with carbon dating.

Other artifacts

At Dabona, a site connected with the Dian culture, archaeologists discovered a large double coffin burial; The outer coffin was made of wood and the inner coffin was made of bronze. The inner coffin was shaped like a house and weighs over 157 kg.

The Yunnan Provincial Museum holds many archaeological relics of the Dian culture.


In 2001, a team of archaeologists working at Fuxian Lake in China discovered a vast collection of underwater buildings at the bottom of the lake. Locals had often claimed to be able to see a ghostlike city beneath the waters on a calm day, and over the years, the stories became something of a local legend. On subsequent diving trips, the archaeologists found standing walls, streets paved with flagstones, and the ruins of an entire city spread across 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 sq. mi).

After carbon dating several earthenware pots, it was determined that the ruin was close to 1,750 years old. It’s believed that an entire section of the city simply broke off and slid into the lake, where it’s been preserved for all these years. (


Chinese ritual bronzes

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4791

Chinese ritual bronzes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Yǒu with zigzag thunder pattern, Early Zhou,Shanghai Museum

Sets of ritual bronzes are the most impressive surviving objects from theChinese Bronze Age. Being from around 1650 BCE, they were deposited asgrave goods in the tombs of royalty and the nobility, and were evidently produced in very large numbers, with documented excavations finding over 200 pieces in a single royal tomb. They were produced for an individual to use in ritual offerings of food and drink to his ancestors in family temples or ceremonial halls over tombs, or rather ritual banquets in which both living and dead members of a family participated; early literary records speak of these. On the death of the owner they would be placed in his tomb, so that he could continue to pay his respects in the afterlife; other examples were cast specifically as grave goods.

The ritual bronzes were probably not used for normal eating and drinking; they represent larger, more elaborate versions of the types of vessels used for this, and made in precious materials. Apart from table vessels, weapons and some other objects were made in special ritual forms. Another class of ritual objects are those, also including weapons, made in jade, which was probably the most highly valued of all, and which had been long used for ritual tools and weapons, since about 4,500 BCE.

At least initially, the production of bronze was probably controlled by the ruler, who gave unformed metal to his nobility as a sign of favour

Burial pit at Tomb of Lady Fu Hao, as it is now displayed


Bronzes (simplified Chinese: 青铜器; traditional Chinese: 青銅器; pinyin:qīng tóng qì;Wade–Giles: ch’ing t’ong ch’i) are some of the most important pieces of ancientChinese art, warranting an entire separate catalogue in the Imperial art collections. The Chinese Bronze Age began in the Xia Dynasty (ca. 2070 – ca. 1600 BC), and bronze ritual containers form the bulk of collections of Chinese antiquities, reaching its zenith during the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC) and the early part of the Zhou Dynasty (1045–256 BC).

Shang (觚), a tall wine cup

The majority of surviving Chinese ancient bronze artefacts are ritual forms rather than their equivalents made for practical use, either as tools or weapons. Weapons like daggers and axes had a sacrificial meaning, symbolizing the heavenly power of the ruler. The strong religious associations of bronze objects brought up a great number of vessel types and shapes which became regarded as classic and totemic and were copied, often in other media such as Chinese porcelain, throughout subsequent periods of Chinese art.

A Late Shang dǐng

The ritual books of old China minutely describe who was allowed to use what kinds of sacrificial vessels and how much. The king of Zhou used 9 dings and 8 gui vessels, a duke was allowed to use 7 dings and 6 guis, a baron could use 5 dings and 3 guis, a nobleman was allowed to use 3 dings and 2 guis. Turning to actual archaeological finds, the tomb of Fu Hao, an unusually powerful Shang queen, contained her set of ritual vessels, numbering over two hundred, which are also far larger than the twenty-four vessels in the tomb of a contemporary nobleman. Her higher status would have been clear not only to her contemporaries, but also, it was believed, to her ancestors and other spirits. Many of the pieces were cast with inscriptions using the posthumous form of her name, indicating there were made especially for burial in the tomb.

The original zun shape, with taotie, Shang

Classification of pieces in the Imperial collection

The appreciation, creation and collection of Chinese bronzes as pieces of art and not as ritual items began in the Song dynasty and reached its zenith in the Qing dynastyduring the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, whose massive collection is recorded in the catalogues known as the Xiqing gujian and the Xiqing jijian (西清繼鑑). Within those two catalogues, the bronzeware is categorized according to use:

  • Sacrificial vessels (祭器, jìqì),
  • Wine vessels (酒器, jiǔqì),
  • Food vessels (食器, shíqì),
  • Water vessels (水器, shuǐqì),
  • Musical instruments (樂器, yuèqì),
  • Weapons (兵器, bīngqì),
  • Measuring containers (量器, liángqì),
  • Ancient money (錢幣, qiánbì), and
  • Miscellaneous (雜器, záqì).

The most highly prized are generally the sacrificial and wine vessels, which form the majority of most collections. Often these vessels are elaborately decorated withtaotie designs.

Later zun in the shape of an ox

Sacrificial vessels


The Houmuwu ding (Chinese: 后母戊鼎; pinyin:Hòumǔwù dǐng), the largest ancient bronze ever found

  • Dǐng (鼎) Sacrificial vessel (祭器), originally a cauldron for cooking and storing meat (食器). The Shang prototype has a round bowl, wider than it is tall, set on three legs (足); there are two short handles on each side (耳). Later examples became larger and larger and were considered a measure of power. It is considered the single most important class of Chinese bronzeware in terms of its cultural importance. There is a variation called a fāngdǐng (方鼎) which has a square bowl and four legs at each corner. There exist rare forms with lids. 西清古鑒 contains over two hundred examples, and this is the most highly regarded of all Chinese bronzes.
  • Dòu (豆): Sacrificial vessel (祭器) that was originally a food vessel. Flat, covered bowl on a long stem.
  • (簠): Rectangular dish, triangular in vertical cross-section. Always with a lid shaped like the dish.
  • Zūn (尊 or 樽 or 鐏): Wine vessel and sacrificial vessel (器為盛酒亦祭用也). Tall cylindrical wine cup, with no handles or legs. The mouth is usually slightly broader than the body. In the late Zhōu (周) dynasty, this type of vessel became exceedingly elaborate, often taking the shape of animals and abandoning the traditional shape. These later types are distinguished from gōng (觥) by retaining a small, roughly circular mouth. This type of vessel forms the second largest group of objects in the Xiqing gujian, after the dǐng (鼎).
  • (俎): Flat rectangular platform with square legs at each corner. Not represented in the Xiqing gujian.
  • (彝): Sacrificial vessel. Two forms: A. Large squat round pot with two handles; B. Tall box-like container, the base narrower than the mouth with a roof-like lid. Later became a generic name for all sacrificial vessels.

Wine vessels

Two Jué on either side of a Gū, all from the Shang dynasty
  • Gōng (觥, not pronounced guāng): Wine vessel often elongated and carved in the shape of an animal. There is always a cover and the mouth of the vessel usually covers the length of the vessel. This is not a classification used in theXiqing gujian; objects of this type are classed under 匜.
  • (觚): Tall wine cup with no handles, the mouth larger than its base.
  • Guǐ (簋): A bowl with two handles.
  • (盉): A wine vessel shaped like a tea pot with three legs. It has a handle (pàn 鋬) and a straight spout that points diagonally upwards.
  • Jiǎ (斝): A cauldron for warming wine. Like a dǐng (鼎) except the body is taller than it is broad, and it may have two sticks (柱) sticking straight up from the brim, acting as handles.
  • Jué (角, not pronounced jiǎo): A wine cup similar to a 爵, except the spout and brim extension are identical and there is a cover.
  • Jué (爵): A wine cup with three legs, a spout (流) with a pointed brim extension (尾) diametrically opposite, plus a handle (鋬).
  • Léi (罍): Vessel for wine with a round body, a neck, a cover and a handle on either side of the mouth.
  • (鬲): Cauldron with three legs. Similar to a dǐng (鼎) except the legs blend into the body or have large swellings on top.
  • Zhī (卮/巵/梔): Wine vessel, and also a measuring container. Like a píng (瓶), except shorter and broader.
  • Zhōng (鍾): A wine vessel with no handles.
  • Zun (尊/樽/鐏): Wine vessel and sacrificial vessel (器為盛酒亦祭用也). Tall cylindrical wine cup, with no handles or legs. The mouth is usually slightly broader than the body. In the late Zhou Dynasty, this type of vessel became exceedingly elaborate, often taking the shape of animals and abandoning the traditional shape. These later types are distinguished from gōng (觥) by retaining a small, roughly circular mouth. This type of vessel forms the second largest group of objects in the Xiqing gujian, after the dǐng (鼎).

Two Jué on either side of a Gū, all from the Shang dynasty

Ritual wine server (guang), Indianapolis Museum of Art, 60.43

Shang Jué

Zhou water pourer , from the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng

Food vessels


Dui vessel with geometric cloud pattern, Warring States period, Hubei Provincial Museum.


Pan food vessel, here in a legless style


Covered Food Container (dou), 6th Century B.C.[6] The Walters Art Museum.

  • Duì (敦, not pronounced dūn): Spherical dish with a cover and three short legs.
  • Pán (盤): Round curved dish for food. May have zero, three, or four short legs.
  • Yǎn (甗): A pot for steaming. Three parts: 鬲, 甑, 箄 q.v.
  • Yǒu (卣): Covered pot with a single looping handle attached on opposite sides of the mouth of the vessel.
  • Zèng (甑): A rice pot; referred to as a 腹 fu4 in Xiqing gujian. Has no separate category in 西清古鑑: see yǎn (甗).

Water vessels

  • (瓿): see pǒu (瓿)
  • Dǒu 斗: Scoop. Tall bowl with a long handle.
  • Móu (鍪): A vase with two handles. Vessels of this type are classed as hú (壺) in the Xiqing gujian.
  • Píng (瓶): Tall vase with a long slender neck opening up to a narrow mouth.
  • Pǒu (瓿, pronounced in China): A small bronze wèng (甕).
  • Wèng (瓮 or 甕): Round mouthed, round bellied jar with no foot for holding water or wine. Now commonly used to hold ashes.
  • Yàndī (硯滴): Water container for an ink stone; often in the shape of an animal with a long thin dropper to control the amount of water dispensed.
  • (匜): A bowl or ewer with a spout; May be elaborately shaped like an animal.
  • (盂): Basin for water. May have up to four decorative handles around the edge; no brim.
  • Zhì (觶): Broad-mouthed vase, similar in shape to a (壺), but with no handles.
  • Zhōng (盅): Small cup with no handles. Not represented in Xiqing gujian.

Musical instruments

  • (鈸): Cymbals. Not represented in the Xiqing gujian. See náo (鐃).
  • (鼓): A drum.
  • Líng (鈴): A small bell (as might be hung from ribbons). This item is not represented in Xiqing gujian.
  • Náo (鐃): Cymbals. Not represented in Xiqing gujian. See also (鈸).
  • Zhōng (鐘): A large bell, as might stand in a tower.


  • Duì (鐓, not pronounced dūn): Bronze decoration for the end of a spear or halberd handle; often with an animal motif.
  • Jiàn (劍): A sword. There are only three examples in Xiqing gujian.
  • Nǔjī (弩機): Crossbow mechanism. There are only two examples in the Xiqing gujian.
  • (鈹): A type of sword.
  • (鏃): An arrow head.

Measuring containers

  • Zhī (卮 or 巵 or 梔): A wine vessel and also a measuring container. Like a píng (瓶), except shorter and broader.

Ancient money

  • (布) or bùwén (布文): Ancient money (錢幣). Rectangular with two legs and a head. Type of qián (錢)
  • Fúyìnqián (符印錢): Taoist amulet minted in the shape of a yuán (圓), usually with an incantation on the obverse and picture on the reverse.
  • Qián (錢): Ancient money (錢幣). Well represented in 西清古鑑; occurs in three types: 布, 刀, 圓(元) q.v.
  • Yuán (圓): Also called yuánbì (圓幣), yuánbǎo (元寶), or yuánqián (元錢). Circular coins with a hole in the middle, usually made of copper or bronze; what most Westerners think of as ‘Chinese money’. Also see fúyìnqián (符印錢).



A bronze mirror (Jiàn) from the Warring States Period (475 – 221 B.C.)

  • Biǎozuò (表座) Cylindrical container with added animal motif. There are only three examples in the Xiqing gujian.
  • Jiàn (鑑 or 鑒): Refers to two different objects: either a tall, broad bronze dish for water, or a circular bronze mirror, usually with intricate ornamentation on the back. The modern meaning is a mirror.
  • Jué (钁): Farming implement shaped like a pickaxe, but used as a hoe. 西清古鑑 contains only two examples; the rubric states: 按說文大鉏也又博雅斫謂之钁 “According to the Shouwen [an ancient Chinese dictionary] it is a large hoe, that is called a jué by the learned.” Only the bronze heads of the two examples survive, because the wooden handles have long rotted away.
  • (鑪): A brazier. These are a nebulously classified group of bronze vessels and there are a number of forms: A. It may similar to a dǐng (鼎) with very short legs sitting on a pán (盤); or B., a duì (敦) on a pán (盤); or C., like a dòu (豆) on a pán(盤).
  • Shūzhèn (書鎮): Paper weight. Usually solid bronze, moulded in the shape of a reclining or crouching animal (three recorded in Xiqing gujian).


Top 10 Ancient Chinese Weapons

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4790

Top 10 Ancient Chinese Weapons

The ancient China civilization has seen a variety of martial arts and battle techniques. The ancient Chinese army won many famous battles and was a very successful force in the Asian continent. And weapon of course played an important role in it. These ancient  weapons were masterpieces of engineering and helped Chinese army succeed much easier. Below is a list of top 10 ancient Chinese weapons. If you feel like any important weapon is excluded in the list, please let me know in the comment section.

#1. Gong

The bow is called “Gong” in Chinese language and it enjoyed a long history in ancient China. According to archaeological materials, the use of bow by ancient Chinese went as early as 2800 years ago.  the archers had always been an important branch of the imperial army until the late 19th century. In ancient China archery has always been an essential subject of the military exam for official selection.

#2. Qiang 枪

Qiang, a type of spear, was an important weapon in ancient China. The common Qiang could was a kind of spear with a long staff and a steel mounted tip. The Qiang was used in battles for long distance combat including throwing these spears, even after fire weapons were introduced by the Qin Dynasty.

#3. Jian The Jian, a double-edged straight sword, was regarded as the king of all weapons in ancient China. The double bladed Jian was a harder weapon to control than a single-blade Saber, so in ancient China Jian usually was owned  and used by the educated class or skilled warrior.

#4. Dun 盾

The Dun (made of metal or wood or bamboo) is Chinese name for shield. It is a big board held in the hand to protect against the attacking of other weapons such as arrow and spear. It was usually used along with a dagger-axe or saber.

#5. Yue 钺

Yue is an axe-shaped arms used in China about 3,000 years ago. It has a threatening expanded blade and is usually decorated with a magical animal in Chinese myth. Yue was created especially for against heavy-armor enemy.

#6. Nu 弩

The Nu was a semi-automatic crossbow invented by Chinese about 2,400 years ago. It comprises a feeder on top and a lever near the end for repeating action. Skilled crossbowman could launch 10 bolts in 15 seconds before before exhausting the magazine.

#7. Dao

The Dao was one of the most commonly used arms in ancient China. Dao can be described as a single-edged Chinese sword with wood wrapped handle. In Ancient China the Dao was used mainly for hand to hand combat especially for the cavalry on horseback.

#8. Gun

Though just a simple staff, the Gun was one of the Four Major Weapons in ancient China. It was usually made from bamboo and mainly used for self-defense. The Gun was rarely used by the Chinese army, and its most common usage is to train new recruits. The army favored bladed weapons as they were more durable and sharper.

#9. Fu

The Fu, Chinese name for the axe, was usually held by imperial guards, rather than common soldiers. The Fu was characterized by large blade that was often carved with a image of a powerful animal. Fu is similar to another Chinese weapon Yue, but is much smaller and lighter and has more practical applications.

#10. Ji

Ji is is a two-handed pole weapon used as a military weapon in China as early as the Shang dynasty (1600 BC – 1046 BC). It comprises a long handle with a curved blade attached to the top and a sharp metal tip. Ji is a very diverse and useful instrument, it can be used to slash with the side blade or stab with the tip.


Chinese architecture

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4789

Chinese architecture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Diagram of corbel wood bracket supports (“Dougong“) holding up a multi-inclined roof, from the architectural treatise Yingzao Fashi(1103 AD)

Chinese architecture refers to a style of architecture that has taken shape inEast Asia over many centuries. The structural principles of Chinesearchitecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details. Since the Tang Dynasty, Chinese architecture has had a major influence on the architectural styles of Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.

The architecture of China is as old as Chinese civilization. From every source of information—literary, graphic, exemplary—there is strong evidence testifying to the fact that the Chinese have always enjoyed an indigenous system of construction that has retained its principal characteristics from prehistoric times to the present day. Over the vast area from Chinese Turkistan to Japan, from Manchuria to the northern half of French Indochina, the same system of construction is prevalent; and this was the area of Chinese cultural influence. That this system of construction could perpetuate itself for more than four thousand years over such a vast territory and still remain a living architecture, retaining its principal characteristics in spite of repeated foreign invasions—military, intellectual, and spiritual—is a phenomenon comparable only to the continuity of the civilization of which it is an integral part.

—Liang, Ssu-ch’eng, 1984

Throughout the 20th Century, Western-trained Chinese architects have attempted to combine traditional Chinese designs into modern architecture (usually government), with only limited success. Moreover, the pressure for urban development throughout contemporary China required higher speed of construction and higher floor area ratio, which means that in the great cities the demand for traditional Chinese buildings, which are normally less than 3 levels, has declined in favor of modern architecture. However, the traditional skills of Chinese architecture, including major and minor carpentry, masonry, andstonemasonry, are still applied to the construction of vernacular architecture in the vast rural area in China.

Architectural bilateral symmetry

sancai (tri-colored) ceramic mansion from the Tang Dynasty(618-907), excavated from a Tang era tomb at Zhongbu village in the western suburbs of Xi’an.
The rectangular compound shown above has two sections of courtyards. The buildings on the axle line include central entrance, four-pointed pavilion, mountain-shaped front hall, artificial mountain and ponds, eight-pointed pavilion and mountain-shaped retiring quarters. The two sides of the central axle are arranged with corridor rooms symmetrically.

A skywell in a Fujian temple with enclosing halls and bays on four sides.

An important feature in Chinese architecture is its emphasis on articulation and bilateral symmetry, which signifies balance. Bilateral symmetry and the articulation of buildings are found everywhere in Chinese architecture, from palace complexes to humble farmhouses. When possible, plans for renovation and extension of a house will often try to maintain this symmetry provided that there is enough capital to do so.Secondary elements are positioned either side of main structures as two wings to maintain overall bilateral symmetry. The buildings are typically planned to contain an even number of columns in a structure to produce an odd number of bays (間). With the inclusion of a main door to a building in the center bay, symmetry is maintained.

A mid-20th century colonial style Taiwanese building containing a skywell.

In contrast to the buildings, Chinese gardens are a notable exception which tend to be asymmetrical. The principle underlying the garden’s composition is to create enduring flow.


A tulou outer building encloses a smaller circular building, which encloses an ancestral hall and courtyard in the center.

Contemporary Western architectural practices typically involve surrounding a building by an open yard on the property. This contrasts with much of traditional Chinese architecture, which involves constructing buildings or building complexes that take up an entire property but enclose open spaces within itself. These enclosed spaces come in two forms, the:

  • Courtyard (院): The use of open courtyards is a common feature in many types of Chinese architectures. This is best exemplified in the Siheyuan, which consists of an empty space surrounded by buildings connected with one another either directly or through verandas.
  • “Sky well” (天井): Although large open courtyards are less commonly found in southern Chinese architecture, the concept of an “open space” surrounded by buildings, which is seen in northern courtyard complexes, can be seen in the southern building structure known as the “sky well”. This structure is essentially a relatively enclosed courtyard formed from the intersections of closely spaced buildings and offer small opening to the sky through the roof space from the floor up.

A dugout dwelling enclosing an underground courtyard

These enclosures serve in temperature regulation and in venting the building complexes. Northern courtyards are typically open and facing the south to allow the maximum exposure of the building windows and walls to the sun while keeping the cold northern winds out. Southern sky wells are relatively small and serves to collect rain water from the roof tops. They perform the same duties as theRomanimpluvium while restricting the amount of sunlight that enters the building. Sky wells also serve as vents for rising hot air, which draws cool air from the lower stories of the house and allows for exchange of cool air with the outside.

An enclosing courtyard on four sides from the Astor Court in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,New York City, USA


The projected hierarchy and importance and uses of buildings in traditional Chinese architecture are based on the strict placement of buildings in a property/complex. Buildings with doors facing the front of the property are considered more important than those facing the sides. Buildings facing away from the front of the property are the least important.

South-facing buildings in the rear and more private location of the property with higher exposure to sunlight are held in higher esteem and reserved for elder members of the family or ancestral plaques. Buildings facing east and west are generally for junior members of the family, while buildings near the front are typically for servants and hired help.Front-facing buildings in the back of properties are used particularly for rooms of celebratory rites and for the placement of ancestral halls and plaques. In multiple courtyard complexes, central courtyards and their buildings are considered more important than peripheral ones, the latter typically being used as storage or servants’ rooms or kitchens.

Horizontal emphasis

Classical Chinese buildings, especially those of the wealthy, are built with an emphasis on breadth and less on height, featuring an enclosed heavy platform and a large roof that floats over this base, with the vertical walls not well emphasized. This contrasts Western architecture, which tends to grow in height and depth. Chinese architecture stresses the visual impact of the width of the buildings.

The halls and palaces in the Forbidden City, for example, have rather low ceilings when compared to equivalent stately buildings in the West, but their external appearances suggest the all-embracing nature of imperial China. These ideas have found their way into modern Western architecture, for example through the work ofJørn Utzon.This of course does not apply to pagodas, which are limited to religious building complexes.

The Forbidden City, viewed from Jingshan Hill to the north, showing the emphasized horizontal spread of the buildings in the complex.

Cosmological concepts

Model of a Chinese Siheyuan in Beijing, which shows off the symmetry, enclosed heavy platform and a large roof that floats over this base, with the vertical walls not as well emphasized.

Chinese architecture from early times used concepts from Chinese cosmology such asfeng shui (geomancy) and Taoism to organize construction and layout from common residences to imperial and religious structures. This includes the use of:

  • Screen walls to face the main entrance of the house, which stems from the belief that evil things travel in straight lines.
  • Talismans and imagery of good fortune:
    • Door gods displayed on doorways to ward off evil and encourage the flow of good fortune
    • Three anthropomorphic figures representing Fu Lu Shou (福祿壽 fú-lù-shòu) stars are prominently displayed, sometimes with the proclamation “the three stars are present” (三星在 sān-xīng-zài)
    • Animals and fruits that symbolize good fortune and prosperity, such as batsandpomegranates, respectively. The association is often done throughrebuses.
  • Orienting the structure with its back to elevated landscape and ensuring that there is water in the front. Considerations are also made such that the generally windowless back of the structure faces the north, where the wind is coldest in the winter.
  • Ponds, pools, wells, and other water sources are usually built into the structure.

The use of certain colors, numbers and the cardinal directions in traditional Chinese architecture reflected the belief in a type of immanence, where the nature of a thing could be wholly contained in its own form. Although the Western tradition gradually developed a body of architectural literature, little was written on the subject in China, and the earliest text, theKaogongji, was never disputed. However, ideas about cosmic harmony and the order of the city were usually interpreted at their most basic level, so a reproduction of the “ideal” city never existed. Beijing as reconstructed throughout the 15th and 16th century remains one of the best examples of traditional Chinese town planning.


Materials and history

Models of watchtowers and other buildings made during theEastern Han Dynasty(AD 25–220); while these models were made of ceramics, the real versions were made of easily perishable wood and have not survived.

Unlike other building construction materials, old wooden structures often do not survive because they are more vulnerable to weathering and fires and are naturally subjected to rotting over time. Although now-nonexistent wooden residential towers, watchtowers, and pagodas predated it by centuries, the Songyue Pagodabuilt in 523 is the oldest extant pagoda in China; its use of brick instead of wood had much to do with its endurance throughout the centuries. From the Tang Dynasty(618–907) onwards, brick and stone architecture gradually became more common and replaced wooden edifices. The earliest examples of this transition can be seen in building projects such as theZhaozhou Bridge completed in 605 or the Xumi Pagodabuilt in 636, yet stone and brick architecture is known to have been used in subterranean tomb architecture of earlier dynasties.

A stone-carved pillar-gate, orque (闕), 6 m (20 ft) in total height, located at the tomb of Gao Yi in Ya’an, Sichuan province, Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD); notice the stone-carved decorations of rooftile eaves, despite the fact that Han Dynasty stoneque (part of the walled structures around tomb entrances) lacked wooden or ceramic components (but often imitated wooden buildings with ceramic roof tiles).

In the early 20th century there were no known fully wood-constructed Tang Dynasty buildings that still existed; the oldest so far discovered was the 1931 find of Guanyin Pavilion at Dule Monastery, dated 984 during the Song. This was until the architectural historians Liang Sicheng (1901–1972), Lin Huiyin (1904–1955), Mo Zongjiang (1916–1999), and (1902–c. 1960s) discovered that the Great East Hall ofFoguang Temple on Mount Wutai in Shanxi was reliably dated to the year 857 in June 1937. The groundfloor dimensions for this monastic hall measures 34 by 17.66 m (111.5 by 57.9 ft). A year after the discovery at Foguang, the main hall of nearbyNanchan Temple on Mount Wutai was reliably dated to the year 782, while a total of six Tang era wooden buildings have been found by the 21st century.The oldest existent fully wooden pagoda that has survived intact is the Pagoda of Fogong Templeof the Liao Dynasty, located in Ying County of Shanxi. While the East Hall of Foguang Temple features only seven types of bracket arms in its construction, the 11th century Pagoda of Fogong Temple features a total of fifty-four.

The earliest walls and platforms in China were of rammed earth construction, and over time brick and stone became more frequently used. This can be seen in ancient sections of the Great Wall of China, while the brick and stone Great Wall seen today is a renovation of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).


Mortise and tenon work of tie beams and cross beams, from Li Jie’s building manualYingzao Fashi, printed in 1103.

  • Foundations: Most buildings are typically erected on raised platforms (臺基) as their foundations. Vertical structural beams may rest on raised stone pedestals (柱础) which occasionally rest on piles. In lower class construction, the platforms are constructed of rammed earth platforms that are unpaved or paved with brick or ceramics. In the simplest cases vertical structural beams are driven into the ground directly. Upper class constructions typically have high raised stone paved rammed earth or stone foundations with ornately carved heavy stone pedestals for supporting large vertical structural beams. The vertical beams rest and remain on their pedestals solely by friction and the pressure exerted by the building structure.
  • Structural beams: Use of large structural timbers for primary support of the roof of a building. Wooden timber, usually large trimmed logs, are used as load-bearing columns and lateral beams for framing buildings and supporting the roofs. These beams are connected to each other directly or, in larger and higher class structures, tied indirectly together through the use of brackets. These structural timbers are prominently displayed in finished structures. It is not definitively known how the ancient builders raised the huge wooden load bearing columns into position.
  • Structural connections: Timber frames are typically constructed with joinery and doweling alone, seldom with the use of glue or nails. These types of semi-rigid structural joints allow the timber structure to resist bending and torsion while under high compression.Structural stability is further ensured through the use of heavy beams and roofs, which weighs the structure down. The lack of glue or nails in joinery, the use of non-rigid support such as dougong, and the used of wood as structural members allow the buildings to slide, flex, and hinge while absorbing shock, vibration, and groundshift from earthquakes without significant damage to its structure.
  • Walls: The common use of curtain walls or door panels to delineate rooms or enclose a building, with the general de-emphasis of load-bearing walls in most higher class construction. However, with the reduction in availability of trees in the later dynasties for building structures, the use of load-bearing walls in non-governmental or religious construction increased, with brick and stone being commonly used.
  • Roofs: Flat roofs are uncommon while gabled roofs are almost omnipresent in traditional Chinese architecture. Roofs are either built on roof cross-beams or rest directly on vertical structural beams. In higher class construction, roof supporting beams are supported through complex dougong bracketing systems that indirectly connect them to the primary structural beams. Three main types of roofs are found:
    1. Straight inclined: Roofs with a single incline. These are the most economical type of roofing and are most prevalent in commoner architectures.
    2. Multi-inclined: Roofs with 2 or more sections of incline. These roofs are used in higher class constructions, from the dwellings of wealthy commoners to palaces.
    3. Sweeping: Roofs with a sweeping curvature that rises at the corners of the roof. This type of roof construction is usually reserved for temples and palaces although it may also be found in the homes of the wealthy. In the former cases, the ridges of the roof are usually highly decorated with ceramic figurines.
  • Roof apex: The roof apex of a large hall is usually topped with a ridge of tiles and statues for both decorative purposes as well as to weigh down the layers of roofing tiles for stability. These ridges are often well decorated, especially for religious or palatial structures. In some regions of China, the ridges are sometimes extended or incorporated into the walls of the building to form matouqiang (horse-head walls), which serve as a fire deterrent from drifting embers.
  • Roof top decorations: Symbolism can be found from colors of the eaves, roofing materials and roof top decorations. Gold/yellow is an auspicious (good) color, imperial roofs are gold or yellow. They are usually used by the emperor. Green roofs symbolize bamboo shafts, which, in turn, represent youth and longevity.

Classification by structure

A pavilion inside the Zhuozheng Garden in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, one of the finest gardens in China

The Zhaozhou Bridge, built from 595–605 during the Sui Dynasty. It is the oldest fully stone open-spandrel segmental arch bridge in the world.

Chinese classifications for architecture include:

Architectural types


The houses of commoners, be they bureaucrats, merchants or farmers, tended to follow a set pattern: the center of the building would be a shrine for the deities and the ancestors, which would also be used during festivities. On its two sides were bedrooms for the elders; the two wings of the building (known as “guardian dragons” by the Chinese) were for the junior members of the family, as well as the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen, although sometimes the living room could be very close to the center.

A vaulted tomb chamber inLuoyang, built during theEastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–220)

Sometimes the extended families became so large that one or even two extra pairs of “wings” had to be built. This resulted in a U-shaped building, with a courtyard suitable for farm work. Merchants and bureaucrats, however, preferred to close off the front with an imposing front gate. All buildings were legally regulated, and the law held that the number of stories, the length of the building and the colours used depended on the owner’s class. Some commoners living in areas plagued by bandits built communal fortresses called Tulou for protection.

A tomb chamber ofLuoyang, built during theEastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–220) with incised wall decorations


There were certain architectural features that were reserved solely for buildings built for the Emperor of China. One example is the use of yellow roof tiles, yellow having been the Imperial color; yellow roof tiles still adorn most of the buildings within the Forbidden City. The Temple of Heaven, however, uses blue roof tiles to symbolize the sky. The roofs are almost invariably supported by brackets(“dougong“), a feature shared only with the largest of religious buildings. The wooden columns of the buildings, as well as the surfaces of the walls, tend to be red in color. Black is also a famous color often used in pagodas. It was believed that the gods are inspired by the black color to descend to the earth.

The Great Red Gate at theMing Tombs near Beijing, built in the 15th century

The Chinese 5-clawed dragon, adopted by the first Ming emperor for his personal use, was used as decoration on the beams, pillars, and on the doors on Imperial architecture. Curiously, the dragon was never used on roofs of imperial buildings.

Only the buildings used by the imperial family were allowed to have nine jian (間, space between two columns); only the gates used by the Emperor could have five arches, with the centre one, of course, being reserved for the Emperor himself. The ancient Chinese favored the color red. The buildings faced south because the north had a cold wind.

The yellow roof tiles and red walls in the Forbidden City (Palace Museum) grounds inBeijing, built during the Yongle era(1402–1424) of the Ming Dynasty

Beijing became the capital of China after the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, completing the easterly migration of the Chinese capital begun since the Jindynasty. The Ming uprising in 1368 reasserted Chinese authority and fixed Beijing as the seat of imperial power for the next five centuries. The Emperor and the Empress lived in palaces on the central axis of the Forbidden City, the Crown Prince at the eastern side, and the concubines at the back (therefore the numerous imperial concubines were often referred to as “The Back Palace Three Thousand”). However, during the mid-Qing Dynasty, the Emperor’s residence was moved to the western side of the complex. It is misleading to speak of an axis in the Western sense of a visual perspective ordering facades, rather the Chinese axis is a line of privilege, usually built upon, regulating access—there are no vistas, but a series of gates and pavilions.


Que 闕 towers along the walls ofTang-era Chang’an, as depicted in this 8th-century mural from Prince Li Chongrun‘s tomb at the Qianling Mausoleum in Shaanxi

Numerology heavily influenced Imperial Architecture, hence the use of nine in much of construction (nine being the greatest single digit number) and the reason why the Forbidden City in Beijing is said to have 9,999.9 rooms—just short of the mythical 10,000 rooms in heaven. The importance of the East (the direction of the rising sun) in orienting and siting Imperial buildings is a form of solar worship found in many ancient cultures, where there is the notion of Ruler being affiliated with the Sun.

The tombs and mausoleums of imperial family members, such as the 8th centuryTang Dynasty tombs at the Qianling Mausoleum, can also be counted as part of the imperial tradition in architecture. These above-ground earthen mounds and pyramids had subterranean shaft-and-vault structures that were lined with brick walls since at least the Warring States (481–221 BC).


A group of temples at the top of Mount Taishan, where structures have been built at the site since the 3rd century BC during the Han Dynasty

Generally speaking, Buddhist architecture follows the imperial style. A large Buddhist monastery normally has a front hall, housing the statue of a Bodhisattva, followed by a great hall, housing the statues of the Buddhas. Accommodations for the monks and the nuns are located at the two sides. Some of the greatest examples of this come from the 18th centuryPuning Temple and Putuo Zongcheng Temple. Buddhist monasteries sometimes also have pagodas, which may house the relics of the Gautama Buddha; older pagodas tend to be four-sided, while later pagodas usually have eight sides.

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty

Daoist architecture, on the other hand, usually follows the commoners’ style. The main entrance is, however, usually at the side, out of superstition about demonswhich might try to enter the premise (see feng shui.) In contrast to the Buddhists, in a Daoist temple the main deity is located in the main hall at the front, the lesser deities in the back hall and at the sides.

The Nine Pinnacle Pagoda, built in the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty

A timber hall built in 857 during the Tang Dynasty,[16] located at the BuddhistFoguang Templein Mount Wutai, Shanxi

The Three Pagodas of Chong Sheng Temple, Dali City, Yunnan, built in the 9th and 10th century

The Fogong Temple Pagoda, located in Ying county, Shanxi province, built in 1056 during theLiao Dynasty, is the oldest existent fully wooden pagoda in China

The Liuhe Pagoda ofHangzhou, China, built in 1165 AD during the Song Dynasty

The Temple of Heaven inBeijing, built in the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty

The Putuo Zongcheng Temple, built from 1767 to 1771 during the reign ofQianlong, represents a fusion of Chinese and Tibetan architectural style

Hua Si Gongbei (the mausoleum of Ma Laichi) in Linxia City, Gansu

Niujie Mosque in Beijing

A Chinese pavilion instead of a minaret at the Great Mosque of Xi’an.

Island Pagoda, about 1871, from the album, Foochow and the River Min

Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

Posted in SCIENCE with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

New Math Could Reveal Hidden Sources of Chaos

Posted in SCIENCE with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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New Math Could Reveal Hidden Sources of Chaos

It’s that point when a smooth river turns into a tumultuous swirl of white water, the tornado that unpredictably changes course on a dime or the wild interactions of three planets under one another’s gravitational pull.

It’s chaos.

Although most people instinctively know chaos when they see it, there hasn’t been one, single, universally agreed-upon mathematical definition of the term. Now, scientists have tried to come up with a mathematical way to describe such chaotic systems.

The new definition, which was described in a paper published in July in the journalChaos, could help identify seemingly smooth situations where the potential for chaos lurks, said study co-author Brian Hunt, a mathematician at the University of Maryland, College Park. [5 Seriously Mind-Boggling Math Facts]

Chaos theory

Mathematician Henri Poincaré first encountered the wild state while trying to describe the behavior of three celestial bodies under one other’s gravitational influence. Their movements proved difficult to predict beyond a few steps, and he termed this kind of erratic motion “chaos.” Unlike truly random behavior, however, those systems were still “deterministic,” meaning that if one knew all the past laws and forces acting on the systems, one could perfectly predict where they would be in the future. (By contrast, at the subatomic scale, particles arefundamentally uncertain, meaning there’s no way to perfectly predict what a given teensy particle will do.)

But scientists didn’t really notice the chaos swirling in the universe until the 1960s, when computers had become powerful enough to crunch numbers and solve equations that couldn’t be worked out on paper, said Edward Ott, an applied physicist at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Sometimes, such as in the case of a simple pendulum, computers could predict behavior far into the future just by knowing a few facts. But other systems were much weirder. For instance, computers needed a ridiculous amount of extra information just to predict what a weather system would do just a few days into the future, which is why a 4-hour weather forecast is typically spot-on but a 10-day forecast is little more than a historical guess. Go far enough into the future, “and, eventually, you won’t know anything about what the weather is going to do,” Ott told Live Science.

Once researchers realized that chaos was so often at play, mathematicians like Edward Lorenz began to develop newer theories for how these chaotic systems work. Yet decades later, no one had come up with a single, simple mathematical definition of chaos that seemed to perfectly capture all of these helter-skelter situations, Ott said.

Single rule for chaos

So Hunt and Ott tried to tackle the problem. The team developed a definition of chaos that was deceptively simple, and roughly based on the quantity similar toentropy, or the inherent tendency of things in the universe to move from a more orderly to a more disorderly state. They found that, if this entropylike number, called expansion entropy, is positive, the system could become chaotic, whereas one with zero expansion entropy would not become chaotic.

In essence, the new method allows researchers to quickly capture the tendency for things to quickly spiral into an abyss of unpredictability.

“You could say you have chaos if you have exponential growth of uncertainty,” Hunt told Live Science. “That could happen in relatively simple systems that people haven’t been willing to call chaotic.”

The findings could help scientists easily determine if there’s a hidden possibility of chaos blooming in an otherwise very orderly system, Hunt said.

“One thing we’re trying to do is identify when chaos is present but maybe only in rare circumstances,” Hunt said.

For example, it could be used to identify hidden pockets of turbulence in the sky, Hunt said.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitterand Google+. Follow Live Science@livescience,Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.


In Photos: Spartan Temple and Cultic Artifacts Discovered

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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In Photos: Spartan Temple and Cultic Artifacts Discovered

The long-lost palace of Sparta, one of the most famous civilizations in ancient Greece, may have been discovered. Archeologists have unearthed a 10-room palace holding cultic objects and clay tablets written in a lost script. Here’s a look at the remains of the Sparta temple and striking artifacts.

Palace ruins

The floor of a room in the remains of the Spartan palace that collapsed after a disaster.

The floor of a room in the remains of the Spartan palace that burnt to the ground in the 14th century B.C. The ten-room palace is likely the lost palace of Sparta. History and other written artifacts such as Homer’s epics, reveal that during the Mycenaean period, Sparta was a flourishing culture. Yet no palace had been found from that time period until now.  (Photo Credit: Greek Culture of Ministry)

6 Archaeological Forgeries That Could Have Changed History

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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6 Archaeological Forgeries That Could Have Changed History


Photos: Ancient Greek Burials Reveal Fear of the Dead

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Photos: Ancient Greek Burials Reveal Fear of the Dead

Gallery: Mysterious Gold Spirals Discovered in Denmark

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on August 30, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Gallery: Mysterious Gold Spirals Discovered in Denmark