Ancient China for Kids
Ancient Chinese architecture had its own principles of structure and layout. The ancient Chinese used timber frames and pounded earth to build homes, temples, and palaces. Different pieces of the building were supported in different ways, so that no one wall supported the whole house. There is an old saying: "Chinese houses will stand when their walls collapse".
The interior of buildings of all sorts were decorated with flower designs and scrolls and peaceful things found in nature. The ancient Chinese also used a glaze to coat walls and ceilings for protection against moisture and for added beauty.
The courtyard was an important part of all ancient Chinese buildings, from the most humble farmhouse to the biggest palace. The poor could not afford a big courtyard surrounded on three sides by wings of a home and the fourth side guarded by a gate, to create an enclosed courtyard. Instead, the poor build several small houses around an open rectangular space, creating a shared courtyard. Courtyards came in different sizes, but each courtyard was laid out like a rectangular painting. It was designed to unfold visually as you moved around the courtyard. This was done using plants and pots and moveable screens. The view from any window in the house or houses or palace or temple, overlooking the courtyard, was unique. By design, no two views were the same.
The main door into the complex or home (or palace or temple) always faced south. The ancient Chinese believed that the proper building materials (earth and wood), an enclosed interior courtyard, and a front door facing south all combined to offer beneficial energy to those who spent time there.
A pagoda roof is shaped somewhat like a mountain top, with peaks, and levels. The ancient Chinese did not invent the pagoda roof. This roof design arrived in ancient China from India via the Silk Road during Han times. But it was an instant hit. Chinese architects went to work all over China, adding a pagoda roof to the homes of the rich. The roof was also used in the design of Buddhist temples.
The ancient Chinese were very clever people. Their love of beauty and nature, and their belief in the auspicious nature of certain things, was reflected in their architecture, even in the most humble of homes.