Deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture, ancient Chinese architecture boasts the following national cultural characteristics:
Ancient Chinese architecture, just like a silent cultural language, bears rich cultural symbols that reveal Chinese beliefs in life and society. For instance, houses belonging to people of higher social status will definitely have different types of roofs , steles, and couplets, compared with those of lower-status people.
Configurations and functions of ancient Chinese architecture, if necessary, can be easily changed, and rooms within them are easy to be dismantled, rebuilt, or shifted for other uses.
Unlike many foreign buildings, which attach much importance to external appearance, some Chinese ancient buildings are simple externally but enjoy internal richness. Two typical examples are the Chinese Quadrangle (Siheyuan) and Gardens in Suzhou of East China"s Jiangsu Province .
Ancient Chinese architecture has remained almost unchanged over thousands of years thanks to China having enjoyed such a long history of feudal society in which people embraced similar, if not the same, values and lifestyles.
When appraising ancient Chinese architecture, instead of jumping into mere favorable or unfavorable comments, one should never neglect the fact that the architecture have weathered the storms of time and survived till today. Therefore, critics should be objective by taking historical situations into consideration when making comments.
The most influential idea in Book of Changes (I-Ching) is that everything in the world is interdependent and one can never learn anything without placing it into a more general environment; architecture is no exception.
For instance, the reason why ancient Chinese buildings are made of wood rather than stones lies in the Chinese belief that wood symbolizes spring, green, and new life and therefore is used to build houses for the living. Stones, however, are usually used for mausoleums and graves.
What"s more, the Eight Diagrams (Bagua , relating to divination), the Yin-Yang Principle (concerning opposing elements), and Feng Shui (dealing with attracting positive energy) all have exerted great influences on ancient Chinese architecture.