Cultural Symbols in Chinese Architecture

Donia Zhang


Culture has been recognized as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, and culture is often viewed as a system of symbols that arises from human interpretations of the world. The cultural codes of symbols and symbolism are imperative to be reexamined for any reinterpretation of a traditional culture. This article explores the origin and meaning of the Yin Yang symbol in Chinese culture, and its subsequent numerological and color applications in classical Chinese architecture, such as Sanqing (Three Pure Ones), Wuxing (Five Natural Elements), Bagua (Eight Trigrams) in courtyard house design, and Jiugongtu (Nine Constellations Magic Square Matrix) and Jingtianzhi (Nine Squares land ownership system) in imperial Chinese city planning. The examples cited are Beijing siheyuan (courtyard houses), the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and Ningbo’s Tianyi Ge library. The paper aims to inspire younger generations to continue Chinese architectural heritage, and respect traditional principles when planning and designing architectural projects. It finally proposes the Yin Yang Yuan symbol to expand traditional Yin Yang symbol, to solve the dilemma of binary thinking and to avoid extremities.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24294/adr.v1i1.211


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