The Forbidden City, modern day Beijing, is the largest collection of preserved wooden structures in the world. In addition to the history associated with the buildings, the architecture involved is striking in itself. Chinese palatial architecture developed over centurys to what we know today as traditional Chinese type buildings. Although many of the buildings have been lost to decay of the wooden structure, some, including those of the Forbidden City, have been preserved. The oldest dated back to the first century.
The Chinese palatial architecture is one with distinct lines and attributes. The raised corners of the roofs are the first thing that catches my eye. These traits were typical of temples and palaces, but could also be found on the homes of the wealthy. Mortise and tenon, similar to dovetailing, were used to connect the large timbers that created the spans and load bearing posts.
It is unknown when the Nanchan Temple was built, but it was rebuilt in 782 AD during the Tang Dynasty. The Nanchan Temple is currently the oldest existing wooden structure from the Tang Dynasty. The first thing that catches my eye is the sweeping roof lines. The symmetry is also appealing to the eye.
The Fogong Temple was built in 1056 AD during the Liao Dynasty. It stands at over 216 feet, and is considered one of the oldest and tallest ancient wooden structure. There are two things that I found incredible about this structure. First is the height, it is hard for me to imagine the support structure the workers had to employ in the 10th century to erect a 200’ building. Second, the building was assembled without the use of any nails, and it has lasted almost 1000 years. The secret is the use of the rare Xing’an larch from Northern China.