Architecture of China-Late (Ming-Qing Dynasties)
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2022
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0022
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2022
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0022
Until recently, architecture of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) periods received far less scholarly attention than that from earlier periods. The first generation of Chinese architectural historians in the early- to mid-20th century mainly devoted their research to the architecture of the late Tang (618–907), Song (960–1279), Liao (907–1125), Jin (1115–1234), and Yuan (1279–1368) periods. Buildings from these eras were considered more valuable than those of the Ming and Qing due to their relative scarcity and old age. In the last few decades, however, an increasing amount of literature has been published on architecture of the last two imperial dynasties. This new research has helped provide a more complete picture of the richness of the Chinese architectural tradition. One of the benefits of studying Ming and Qing architecture is that far more buildings and building types survive from this time than from earlier periods. These dynasties left us with imperial palaces and wealthy people’s homes, from which we can learn a great deal about domestic architecture, fengshui, garden design, and interior decoration. Beyond individual buildings, we can examine entire towns and villages, such as Pingyao in Shanxi, Huizhou in Anhui, and Lijiang in Yunnan. Due in part to new territories being incorporated into China’s borders, “Chinese” architecture from these last two dynasties additionally encompasses the complex and diverse building traditions of China’s ethnic minorities. Also, during the Ming and Qing periods important new technological developments were made in carpentry, causing buildings to be constructed according to different sets of principles than those before the Ming. The study of architecture from this time is thus indispensable for our understanding of the long evolution of the Chinese building tradition.
The following works offer general introductions to a wide range of architectural types and construction practices. By far the most comprehensive studies are Pan 1999 for the Ming and Sun 2002a, Sun 2002b for the Qing. These are the last two volumes in a five-volume set of Chinese architectural history, which are the best place to start research for those who can read Chinese. Pan and Sun also wrote chapters for the English publication Chinese Architecture. These chapters are appropriate for scholars wanting to learn more about the most important surviving buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties in China. Other studies, such as Liang 1984 and Liu 2005, offer useful introductions to Ming and Qing architecture, especially as it compares to the architecture of earlier periods in China, and these works are written by the foremost scholars in the field.
Campbell, Aurelia. What the Emperor Built: Architecture and Empire in the Early Ming. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020.
The only English-language monograph dedicated to the history of Ming architecture. Focuses on the famous building projects of the Yongle emperor, including the Forbidden City and the Daoist architectural complex on Mount Wudang, to reveal how his imperial ideology took shape in built space.
Liang Sicheng. A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture. Translated and edited by Wilma Fairbank. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1984.
A groundbreaking introductory survey. Covers Ming and Qing timber-frame halls and pagodas. Illustrated with Liang’s original architectural drawings and black-and-white photographs.
Liu Dunzhen 劉敦楨. Zhongguo gudai jianzhu shi (中國古代建築史). Beijing: Zhongguo jianzhu gongye chubanshe 中國建築工業出版社, 2005.
A comprehensive and authoritative introduction to Chinese architectural by a leading 20th-century scholar that serves as the main textbook for students of architectural history in China. Includes a substantial amount of buildings from the Ming and Qing periods, including many belonging to China’s ethnic minorities. Illustrated with detailed line drawings and black-and-white photographs.
Pan Guxi. “The Yuan and the Ming Dynasties” In Chinese Architecture. Edited by Nancy S. Steinhardt, 199–259. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.
Provides a concise introduction to the major surviving monuments in China from the Yuan and Ming dynasties, including imperial palaces, Buddhist and Daoist temples, and residential architecture.
Pan Guxi 潘谷西, ed. Zhongguo gudai jianzhu shi: Yuan, Ming jianzhu, di si juan (中國古代建築史, 第四卷: 元明建築，第四卷 di si jian 中國古代建築史). Beijing: Zhongguo jianzhu gongye chubanshe 中國建築工業出版社, 1999.
English title: The History of Ancient Chinese Architecture, Volume 4, Yuan and Ming Architecture. Offers the most comprehensive introduction to Yuan and Ming dynasty architecture available, covering both architectural history and technical aspects of construction. Superbly illustrated with black-and-white line drawings and photographs.
Sun Dazhang. “The Qing Dynasty.” In Chinese Architecture. Edited by Nancy S. Steinhardt, 260–343. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002a.
Introduces the most important surviving monuments in China from the Qing dynasty, including the Qing summer palaces, private gardens, Tibetan Buddhist temples, mosques, and vernacular architecture.
Sun Dazhang 孫大章. Zhongguo gudai jianzhu shi, di wu juan, Qingdai jianzhu (中國古代建築史，第五卷:清代建築). Beijing: Zhongguo jianzhu gongye chubanshe中國建築工業出版社, 2002b.
English title: The History of Ancient Chinese Architecture, Volume 5, The Qing Dynasty. Offers the most comprehensive introduction to Qing dynasty architecture available, covering both architectural history and technical aspects of construction. Superbly illustrated with black-and-white line drawings and photographs.
Wang Guixiang 王貴祥, ed. Mingdai chengshi yu jianzhu: huanlie fenbu, gangwei buzhi, yu zhidu chongjian (明代城市與建築：環列分布、綱維布置與制度重建). Beijing: Zhonguo gongye chubanshe 中國建築工業出版社, 2012.
English title: Cities and Architecture in the Ming Dynasty: Circular Distribution, Guiding Principles, and Systematic Rebuilding. This edited volume focuses on the city planning and architecture, including prince’s residences, mansions, government offices, altars, memorial temples, and gardens, of a wide range of cities in China from the Ming dynasty. Focuses on the major developments in Ming city planning.
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