The historiography of Chinese architecture is less than
a century old. The architectural profession did not exist in China.
Buildings were erected by craftsmen who were also responsible for
their maintenance. Their skills were handed down to their sons or
apprentices for generations. Unlike painting and calligraphy, building
was not regarded as one of the fine arts.
Only two records of building practice survive: a twelfth-century
manual, Yingzao fashi (Building standards), printed in 1103,
and a 1734 manual, Gongbu gongcheng zuofa zeli (Engineering
manual for the Board of Works).
In the twentieth century, the literature in Chinese
on architecture was written largely by two main groups. The earlier
works were written mainly in the 1930s by the Society for Research
in Chinese Architecture. The first 2 volumes of the Society=s bulletin,
published in 1930 and 1931, were devoted to the 12th-century manual,
including translations of articles on the subject by western authors.
The other group was young Chinese architects who studied abroad and
became active in textual research and field work. With the help of
artisans and craftsmen the group gained solid knowledge of methods
and rules of architecture from the last two centuries, and they undertook
extensive field work.
The later literature was written after 1949 by the members
of the dispersed society and others mostly published in the two journals,
Wenwu (Cultural relics) and Kaogu (Archaeology), detailing
great discoveries of old buildings during archaeological excavations.
Since the 1980s and 1990s, with the discoveries of architectural remains,
finds have been documented and important research has been carried
out. More and more works on Chinese architecture have been published.
Compared to painting specialists, the number of western
scholars in Chinese architecture is small. The following list consists
of works by these scholars and some of the English translations of
Chinese texts. They are general historical surveys and studies of
different types of Chinese architecture, such as domestic, imperial,
tombs and shrines, and city planning.
Works on landscape
architecture and gardens are separately listed.
Historic Chinese Architecture, compiled by
the Dept. of Architecture. Tsinghua University. rev. ed. Beijing:
Tsinghua University Press, 1990, c1985.
Reprinted, with corrections, chiefly with colored
illustrations and a brief introduction, by the renowned faculty
of architecture at the Qinghua University.
History and Development of Ancient Chinese Architecture.
Compiled by Institute of the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese
Academy of Sciences. Beijing: Science Press, 1986.
Originally published in Chinese, the work has been
the most comprehensive study of Chinese architecture, with emphasis
on architectural technology, various techniques of construction,
city planning, and garden techniques, with a chapter on design.
Knapp, Ronald. China=s Traditional Rural Architecture:
A Cultural Geography of the Common House. Honolulu: University
of Hawaii Press, 1986.
The author is one of the pioneers of scientific
studies of Chinese architectural development. The book gives a
summary of historical development of the Chinese house, lists
the variety of Chinese rural dwellings, traditional and contemporary,
with information on construction, such as foundations, framework,
roof structures, etc.
_____. China=s Vernacular Architecture: House Form
and Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989.
Discusses vernacular and folk traditions of Chinese
architecture, with emphasis on domestic architecture, such as
space, structure, interior and exterior elements, in Zhejiang
_____. Chinese House: Craft, Symbol, and the Folk
Tradition (Images of Asia). Hong Kong: Oxford University Press,
A general and brief introduction to Chinese architecture,
the symbolism and tradition, and contemporary trends.
_____. Chinese Landscapes: The Village as Place.
Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992.
The work focuses on the Chinese village, rural settlement
patterns, fengshui principles, tradition vs. transition.
_____. China=s Living Houses: Folk Beliefs, Symbols,
and Household Ornamentation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii
Exploring the complex links among folk beliefs and household
ornamentation across time, space, and social class, the book consists
of two parts: "in quest of spatial harmony", dealing
with issues such fengshui, or dwellings as social templates; and
"in pursuit of good fortune," discussing how the Chinese
use house ornamentation to communicate their wish to bring their
family good fortune. Includes bibliography and index.
Liang, Ssu-ch=eng. A Pictorial History of Chinese
Architecture. edited by Wilma Fairbank. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
One of the foremost pioneers in studying Chinese
architecture, the author discusses Chinese structural system and
timber-frame architecture of temples and monuments. The book has
been translated and published in China, in a bilingual edition
Liu, Laurence G. Chinese Architecture. New
York: Rizzoli, 1989.
A colorfully illustrated survey of historical background,
characteristics of classical Chinese architecture, city planning
principles, religious, funeral and ceremonial, and domestic buildings,
palaces, and gardens.
Lo, Che-wen. Ancient Pagodas of China. Beijing:
Foreign Languages Press, 1994.
Mainly illustrations, but provides a brief historical
survey of the origin, development, use, building materials, building
structures and types of pagodas.
Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilization in China,
vol. 4, part 3: ACivil engineering and nautics@. Cambridge, U. K.:
Cambridge University Press, 1971, p. 58-210.
An exhaustive treatment of Chinese building; a leading
Paludan, Ann. The Imperial Ming Tombs. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.
Living in Beijing from 1972 to 1976 as the wife
of the Danish Ambassador, the author visited thirteen Ming tombs
outside of Beijing as well as cemeteries of imperial concubines.
She photographed and documented the tombs, the stone figures,
and described tomb architecture. (The work is also listed under
Prip-Mĝller, Johannes. Chinese Buddhist Monasteries:
Their Plan and its Function as a Setting for Buddhist Monastic Life.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1982.
Originally published in 1937, 2nd edition in 1967,
3rd printing in 1982.
Schinz, Alfred. Cities in China (Urbanization
of the earth). Berlin: Gerbrüder Borntraeger, 1989.
Discusses 20th century urbanization of Chinese cities,
including historic ones, such as Xi=an and Beijing, mainly from
the standpoint of urban geography.
_____. The Magic Square: Cities in Ancient China.
Stuttgart: Edition Axel Menges, 1996.
It describes the history of urban development since
the beginning of sedentary settlement in Neolithic times, through
the Middle Ages, to the last dynasty, the Qing (1644-1912). It
provides in detail the principles and the history of Chinese city
planning and urban development.
Sickman, Laurence and Alexander Soper. The Art
and Architecture of China. reprint ed. Harmondsworth, U. K.:
A leading source for historical survey of Chinese
Steinhardt, Nancy Shatzman. Chinese Traditional
Architecture. New York: China Institute in America, China House
A catalog with 10 essays of an exhibition at China
House Gallery, New York in 1984, beginning with a comprehensive
survey of the development of architecture and building technologies
in China, followed by studies of specific structures, architectural
heritage of the Bronze age, a Han ritual hall in modern Xi=an,
new findings at Yungang temple caves, Tang and Liao monuments
and the Ming and Qing architecture, etc.
_____. Chinese Imperial City Planning. Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press, 1990.
The results of Chinese excavation at a wide range
of cities made it possible for studies like this one. It is a
thorough study of imperial cities, beginning with Khubilai Khan=s
city in China, Dadu, which was the focus of the author=s dissertation,
continuing with imperial capitals throughout the centuries, such
as Chang=an and Luoyang during the Han and the Tang dynasties,
and Nanjing, Shenyang and Beijing during the Ming and Qing.
_____. Liao Architecture. Honolulu: University
of Hawaii Press, 1997.
A detailed study of a particular historic period,
Liao dynasty (947-1125), chosen for the lack of literature on
the subject and the characteristics of its architecture which
set it apart from the general ones. The author gives detailed
information based on the results of the extensive excavation of
more than 300 tombs, on timber-frame tradition, funerary tradition,
and architectural characteristics, etc.
Yü, Cho-yün. Palaces of the Forbidden City.
New York: Viking Press, 1984.
Translated from Chinese, the work is written by
an expert on Chinese architecture, documenting the palace, its
wooden structures, both interior and exterior views, various halls,
buildings, pavilions, and gates.
to Table of Contents
Landscape Architecture / Gardens
Historic gardens in China are no longer in existence.
Written and pictorial records of individual gardens are also scarce.
The most heavily relied upon source is Yuanye by Ji Cheng of
the seventeenth century, from which many of the design ideas have
evolved and have become established principles of landscape architecture
in China. In recent years Chinese scholars have begun to write for
architectural journals, to reconstruct the history of Chinese gardens,
using the surviving or archaeologically excavated sites to interpret
the data with relevant literature.
The Authentic Garden: A Symposium on Gardens.
Leiden, The Netherlands: Clusius Foundation, 1991.
The chapter dealing with Chinese garden is entitled
AMother of gardens: the gardens of the Far East.@ There are 5
papers by Maggie Keswick, Craig Clunas, Alison Hardie, Georges
Metailie and Zhong Ming.
Chen, Lifang and Yu Sianglin. The Garden Art of
China. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 1986.
It includes a historical survey, the principles
of garden layout, artificial hills and rocks, and architecture
and patterns of Chinese gardens.
Ch=en, Ts=ung-chou. Shuo Yuan = On Chinese Gardens.
Shanghai: Tongji University Press, 1984.
Chi, Ch=eng. The Craft of Gardens [Yuanye.
English], with a foreword by Maggie Keswick. New Haven: Yale University
First published in 1634, the work is a classic,
detailing the theory of construction on gardens concerning situation,
layout, building. It focuses more on technical aspects, but also
discusses non-structural and scenic features. (The work was translated
in 1993 with annotations from classical Chinese to modern Chinese,
with original text and illustrations and index.)
Chu, Chün-chen. Chinese Landscape Gardening.
Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1992.
Originally in Chinese, the work focuses on garden
plantings and plant arrangements.
Clunas, Craig. Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in
Ming Dynasty China. London: Reaktion Books, 1996.
Describes how gardens and their meanings were created
and changed during the 16th and 17th centuries; examines the scholar=s
garden from the aspect of material culture.
Engel, David H. Creating a Chinese Garden.
London: Croom Helm, 1986.
Focuses on the characteristics of the Chinese garden,
contrasts it with those of the Japanese garden, and describes
form and composition and design and construction techniques.
Fung, Stanislaus. AGarden, VI, 1 (i): China,@ The
Dictionary of Art, vol. 12, p. 85-93.
A concise historical survey with bibliography.
Hay, John. Kernels of Energy, Bones of Earth: The
Rock in Chinese Art. New York: China Institute in America, 1985.
An exhibition catalog at China House Gallery, New
York, it discusses rocks in art, drawing mainly on examples of
Chinese painting. Rocks are one of the main components in a Chinese
Hu, Tung-ch=u. The Way of the Virtuous: The Influence
of Art and Philosophy on Chinese Garden Design. Beijing: Foreign
Languages Press, 1991.
Translation of Zhongguo wenhua yu yuanlin yishu,
the book discusses the garden as art, but also emphasizes
Confucianism and Daoism as the source of Chinese garden aesthetics.
Describes various designs of Chinese gardens.
Johnston,R. Stewart. Scholar Gardens of China:
A Study and Analysis of the Spatial Design of the Chinese Private
Garden. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
An English architect, the author reviews some forty
gardens, mainly in Jiangsu Province and Shanghai. There are also
sections on gardens in Beijing, Sichuan and Guangdong provinces.
Keswick, Maggie. The Chinese Garden: History, Art
and Architecture. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin=s Press, 1986.
Published originally in 1977 in London and in 1978
in the U.S., the work discusses landscape architecture with a
focus on its artistic and literary meanings.
Morris, Edwin T. The Gardens of China: History,
Art, and Meanings. New York: Scribner=s, 1983.
Similar to Keswick=s work.
Siren, Osvald. Gardens of China. New York:
The Ronald Press, c1949.
Discusses garden as a work of art in forms of nature,
lists the natural elements, such as mountains and water, flowers
and trees, and architectural elements, such as walls and pavilions,
and explains the relationship between gardens and literature and
Stuart, Jan. AA scholar=s garden in Ming China: dream
and reality,@ Asian Art, vol. 3, no. 4 (Fall 1990), p. 31-52;
AMing dynasty gardens reconstructed in words and images,@ Journal
of Garden History, vol. 10, no. 3 (1990), p. 162-172.
Deals with one historic period, the Ming dynasty
(1368-1644), using Chinese painting to discuss Ming gardens.
Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed
Landscapes: An International Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 3 (autumn
1998). London ; Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis, 1998.
Devoted to Chinese gardens and in honor of Professor
Chen Congzhou of Shanghai, the issue includes 6 essays on the
cosmological setting of Chinese gardens, the Confucian role, interior
display in relation to external space, and Ascholar gardens,@
with a lengthy guide to secondary sources on Chinese gardens.
Tsu, Frances Ya-sing. Landscape Design in Chinese
Gardens. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988.
Provides a general historical survey, compares the
Chinese garden to the European and Japanese garden, classifies
Chinese gardens and describes components and designs of Chinese
Wang, Joseph Cho. The Chinese Garden (Images
of Asia). Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1998.
A concise review of the historical development of
the Chinese garden and elements of the garden, and the garden
Yang, Hung-hsün. The Classical Gardens of China:
History and Design Techniques [translated from Chinese]. New
York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982.
Discusses principles of Chinese garden design, history
and development of garden buildings in China, and Chinese influences
on other countries.
to Table of Contents
by the Library of the Freer Gallery of Art
and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services,
revised 11 October 2000