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Taoist Architecture

Taoist architecture mainly refers to the Taoist temple buildings, which basically consist of the divine hall, the alter, the room for reading sculptures and practicing asceticism, the living room, the reception room for pilgrims, and the park where visitors can have a rest. The general layout adopts the form of Chinese traditional courtyard, with the divine hall on the mean axis and the reception room and Taoists' living room, etc., on both sides. Together with a park cleverly built on the basis of the architectural complex, a kind of fairyland thus comes into being.

Taoist temple buildings also clearly reflect Taoists' strong will in the pursuit of happiness, longevity and immortality.

The existing Taoist architectures were mostly built in the periods of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). Some important buildings have been listed as the national or provincial key cultural relics under special protection. As a kind of precious inheritance, their design, layout and craftsmanship are still worthy of borrowing in modern architecture.

Taoist architecture includes various structures according to different functions, categorized as palace for oblation and sacrifice, altar for praying and offering, cubby for religious service, residence for Taoist abbes and garden for visitors.

During the last period of the East Han Dynasty when Taoism was introduced, Taoist ascetics mostly lived in huts and even caves in remote mountains under guidance of their philosophy of nature.

Early Taoist architectures were all traditional.

During the Jin dynasty and the Northern and Southern dynasty, Taoism experienced reforms and was accepted by the rulers. Many Taoist temples were set up in the capital under imperial orders. Taoist architecture reached a rather large scale then.

Taoism reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, when Chinese timber framed architecture, characterized by high base, broad roof and perfect integration of decoration and function, matured in all aspects. There were strict regulations on size, structure, decoration and use of colour. For the 660 years, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism influenced each other, so that certain structures in Buddhism and Confucianism architectures were transformed into Taoism architecture. As a result, there remained similarities in designing and grouping among the three systems.

Taoist architecture applies two architectural styles - traditional style and Bagua style.

In the former style, traditional architectural layout, which is symmetric, will be applied. Main halls will be set up on the central axis, while other religious structures on the two sides. Usually, on the northwest corner of the complex, Lucky Land to Meet God will be located. Annexes like dining hall and accommodation will locate at the back or the flank of the complex.

The second is the Bagua style in which all structures surround the Danlu (stove to make pills of immortality) in the center according to Bagua's position request. The center axis from the south to the north is very long and structures flank the axis. The style reflects Taoist philosophy that the human cosmos follows the natural cosmos to integrate energy, qi and spirit.

Most Taoist architectures resort to nature topography to build towers, pavilions, lobbies and other garden structural units, decorated with murals, sculptures and steles to entertain people, fully interpreting Taoist philosophy of nature.

Taoist architectural decoration reflects Taoist pursuit of luck and fulfillment, long lifespan, and eclosion into the fairyland. Taoist architectural motifs are all meaningful. Celestial bodies mean brightness shining everywhere while landscape and rocks immortality. Folding fan, fish, narcissus, bat and deer are used to imply beneficence, wealth, celestial being, fortune and official position, while pine and cypress stand for affection, tortoise for longevity, crane for man of honor. There are many other symbols very traditional and Taoist decorations root deep in Chinese folk residential houses.

Related links:
Holy Lands - mountains, palace of eight immortals, temples, tai, pavilion and so on.

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