Chinese New Year will be celebrated across the globe on Saturday 28th January 2017. According to the traditional progression of the Chinese calendar, we are leaving behind the Year of the Monkey and entering into the Year of the Rooster. To celebrate, we are taking a look at some of the defining features of Chinese architecture.
In Classical Chinese architecture, a foundational element is bilateral symmetry, meaning that the two sides of a building are symmetrical from doorway to roof and extend vertically and horizontally, creating a pleasing sense of harmony and perfect balance.
The placement of doorways is highly symbolic in Chinese architecture and denotes the hierarchy of the room or building to which they are attached. Rooms within a house (or buildings within a complex) which have front-facing doorways are considered to be of higher importance and priority than those with side-facing doorways. In this way, the placement of rooms and doorways must be carefully considered from symbolic as well as practical points of view when laying out a property design or a footprint for a complex of buildings.
Enclosure is also a key defining feature of Classical Chinese architectural style. Containing enclosed spaces within a building or complex is highly characteristic in Chinese design and usually takes the form of either traditional courtyards or so called “Sky Wells” which are smaller spaces between closely related buildings or rooms which are open to the sky, allowing light and air in to circulate.
Perhaps the most fascinating and mystical elements of Chinese architectural design come from the cosmological traditions of Feng Shui and Taoism. These are focused around creating conducive energy flows and aligning with cosmology. Doors and doorways are highly significant points for the entry and exit of energy and there are special protocols for keeping out negative energy and allowing positive energy to flow well. Screens can be used to ward off evil energy from entering the house on the basis that it travels in straight lines, whereas good energy can flow around the screen. Finally, door gods may be positioned as guardians of the threshold, protecting the home and its inhabitants from evil energy and welcoming in the good.