A Must-See When Traveling in Beijing : Quadrangle Courtyard (Siheyuan)2016-07-29 15:51:29Share:
Quadrangle Courtyard, also know as “Siheyuan” in Chinese, is a historical type of residence that was commonly found throughout China, especially most common see in Beijing. The name literally means a courtyard surrounded by four buildings.
Today, many remaining Siheyuan are still used as housing complexes, but many lack modern amenities. The design and construction Beijing courtyard is easier than other architectures.
The materials it used is very simple. It used black bricks, gray tiles and brick wood to combine mixed construction, with wooden structure as the main course, instead of reinforcing steel bars and cement.
A standard Quadrangle Courtyard structure has light weight. In case of an earthquake, few quadrangle courtyards can be shock down, indicating that the courtyard is shockproof. Overall tone of it is gray green, giving the impression of a very simple style but having very comfortable life here.
Beijing courtyard is famous, because it has a unique layout, with typical and representative feature in the Chinese traditional residential buildings. Most of the Chinese residential building apartments are set up with residential courtyards.
The courtyards in southern region of China are always small surrounded by buildings around. This housing is suitable for southern climates, but ventilation and lighting were unsatisfactory.
However, the courtyard in Beijing quadrangles is large and bright with surrounded by four buildings. The four buildings in the four side of it are separated, but they are connected with each other by corridors. So it is very convenient and enjoyable living in it.
Quadrangle Courtyard also serves as a cultural symbol of Beijing and a window into its old ways of life.
History of Beijing Quadrangle Courtyard
The history of Quadrangle Courtyard dates back as early as the Western Zhou period. It has a history of over 2,000 years. It appears in Western Zhou period of China and was built in large scale in Yuan Dynasty.
Along with Beijing Hutong, Quadrangle Courtyard had become main residential building in Beijing (it was called Da Du at that time) since Yuan Dynasty. Coming to Ming Dynasty, quadrangle buildings had been commonly seen in Beijing. And due to the rapid development of economy in this period, the quadrangle courtyards are more various and have more entertainment functions.
Down to the Qing Dynasty, it fully inherited the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty in Beijing, so Beijing's residential building courtyard is also fully inherited. However, in late Qing Dynasty, the construction of Beijing traditional residential buildings was also affected to some extent. During this period, the construction of the courtyard, some more or less added some Western architectural decorative components. The most typical example is the appearance of wall door in the Old Summer Palace.
Quadrangles exist all across China and are the template for most Chinese architectural styles. Quadrangles also serve as a cultural symbol of Beijing and a window into its old ways of life. Modern Beijing's population boom has made housing one of city's biggest challenges. Siheyuan today are typically used as housing complexes, hosting multiple families, with courtyards being developed to provide extra living space.
In the 1990s, systematic demolition of old urban buildings took place in Beijing under rapid economic development. Many siheyuan are being torn down to address the problem of overcrowding, and have been replaced by modern apartment blocks.
Layout of Beijing Quadrangle Courtyard
Quadrangle Courtyard, the name literally means a courtyard surrounded by four buildings. The four buildings of a Quadrangle Courtyard are normally sited along the north-south and east-west axis.
The building located to the north and facing the south is regarded as the main house ( Zhengfang). The rooms that are adjacent to the main house and facing the east and west are called the side houses (Xiang Fang). The rooms that are facing northwards are known as the opposite house (Dao Zuo Fang).
Behind the northern building, there would often be a separate backside building (Hou Zhao Fang), the only place in which two-story buildings are allowed to be built for the traditional Quadrangle Courtyard. The buildings in three sides of north, east and west are normally connected by beautifully decorated pathways. The pathways also serve as shelters from the sunshine or rain falls during the days, and offer a cool location to enjoy the view of the courtyard at nights.
The entrance gate is often at the southeastern corner. It is usually painted vermilion and with copper door knockers on it. Normally, there is a screen wall (Ying Bi) inside the entrance gate, which is used for protecting privacy for the people inside; superstition holds that it also keeps the house away from evil spirits and brings Auspicious Omen to the dwellers of the house.
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