Tao’s tem­ples are in har­mony with na­ture

Young ar­chi­tect’s first project was a huge suc­cess

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | TREND - By XUWEI xuwei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

De­sign­ing a tem­ple is dif­fer­ent from com­ing up with a plan for a res­i­den­tial com­plex in that you have to also imag­ine that God is liv­ing there, saidTaoJin, a Bei­jing-based ar­chi­tect.

Tao, 33, is with the Ar­chi­tec­tural De­sign and Re­search In­sti­tute of Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity in Bei­jing. He has spe­cial­ized in the de­sign­ing of re­li­gious build­ings after his first project — the Taoist Dey­ouguan Tem­ple on Maoshan Moun­tain, Jiangsu prov­ince— turned out to be a huge suc­cess.

He also won an award from the Ger­man mag­a­zine Bauwelt for the new de­sign of the tem­ple. The orig­i­nal tem­ple, built dur­ing the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271-1368), was de­stroyed by the in­vad­ing Ja­panese troops dur­ing the 1937-1945 war.

Tao, a con­verted Taoist, said the de­sign of re­li­gious build­ings in the East and theWest, and across dif­fer­ent re­li­gions is es­sen­tially the same.

“The metaphor is that the God is liv­ing there, and you have to show your the­o­log­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions through the de­sign of form, space and am­bi­ence,” he said.

“We also need to un­der­stand specif­i­cally the mean­ing of sa­cred space within the tem­ple.”

Mean­while, the de­sign must also take into con­sid­er­a­tion the needs of cler­gies liv­ing in the monas­ter­ies or tem­ples as well.

“If we are to de­sign a monastery where 20 monks are go­ing to live, we need to con­sider how many bedrooms are needed, how big the stor­age room needs to be and how to fit in plumb­ing, heat­ing and elec­tric­ity in the struc­ture,” he said.

In de­sign­ing the new Dey­ouguan, Tao did not re­store the tem­ple to its A pic­ture of the Dey­ouguan Tem­ple orig­i­nal ap­pear­ance. In­stead, het­ried to in­cor­po­rate both the idea of the orig­i­nal de­sign and mod­ern ar­chi­tec­tural con­cepts to re­build the tem­ple.

“It is im­pos­si­ble to de­sign and build tem­ples ex­actly the way they were. No mat­ter how much ef­forts you put into it, they would still look like a replica,” he said.

Tao said he was in­clined to pre­serve the orig­i­nal site of the old tem­ple, and build a new one with a de­sign that bor­rows the idea of the old one.

“This way, there can be in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the new tem­ple and the old one,” he said.

How­ever, for him and his col­leagues, the dilemma usu­ally lies in that many re­li­gious lead­ers have a spe­cial fond­ness for an­tique-look­ing One of the pil­lars and lux­u­ri­ous repli­cas of an­cient build­ings.

In Wuxi, Jiangsu prov­ince, au­thor­i­ties spent more than 1.6 bil­lion yuan ($240 mil­lion) to de­velop the op­u­lent Fan Gong Palace, the venue of theWorld Bud­dhist Fo­rum in 2009 and 2015. There are also at least six Bud­dha stat­ues that are as tall as 50 to 100 me­ters in var­i­ous parts of China.

“They like Bud­dha stat­ues in gi­gan­tic sizes, and large tem­ples dec­o­rated with lux­u­ri­ous col­ors. The more an­tique-look­ing, the bet­ter,” Tao said.

The hunger for build­ing repli­cas has been fu­eled by ad­vances in con­struc­tion tech­nol­ogy as it has en­abled the cre­ation of much larger re­li­gious struc­tures than be­fore.

“What they ac­tu­ally do is to use re­in­forced con­crete to mould fake repli­cas of an­cient build­ings. Some projects would re­duce forests and hills to the ground to make room for the new­build­ing,” he said.

“It is to­tally against the tra­di­tional con­cepts of Bud­dhism and Tao­ism as both re­li­gions pro­mote har­mony with na­ture, rather than de­stroy­ing na­ture,” he said.

Tao has nur­tured a spe­cial in­ter­est in re­li­gious build­ings since his child­hood, when he would ride a bi­cy­cle to roam around the tem­ples and monas­ter­ies in Bei­jing and read books about the his­tory and architecture of old re­li­gious build­ings.

He pub­lished his first ar­ti­cle on the his­tory of a Taoist build­ing in Bei­jing dur­ing his high school years.

“I like Tao­ism more than other re­li­gions be­cause it is indige­nous to China,” he said.

He stuck to his in­ter­est as he went to study architecture at the Uni­ver­sity of Not­ting­ham in the United King­dom.

“My ma­jor also gave­mean op­por­tu­nity to re­late the tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture to West­ern the­o­ries, in­clud­ing an­thro­pol­ogy and architecture,” he said.

Tao re­turned from his study in 2008, but he did not un­der­take a sin­gle pro­gram un­til a year later. That was when he met Yang Shi­hua, pres­i­dent of the Taoist As­so­ci­a­tion of Jiangsu and a re­li­gious leader in Maoshan, the tra­di­tional seat of Shangqing school of Tao­ism, dur­ing a fu­neral of a priest in Shang­hai.

Mod­ern ren­o­va­tions

The plan­ning for Dey­ouguan was a lengthy process, as the old tem­ple had been re­duced to pieces decades ago, and Tao had to talk to a few priests to get an idea of what the tem­ple looked like.

He bor­rowed some ideas of the old tem­ple such as the roof to meld with the ter­rain.

How­ever, he used glass as ceil­ing to en­able ad­e­quate day­light to pen­e­trate into the build­ing.

Tao joined the Ar­chi­tec­tural De­sign and Re­search In­sti­tute in 2013, where he be­gan un­der­tak­ing more­pro­gram­sto re­store­an­drebuild tem­ples and re­li­gious build­ings.

He noted that with the num­ber of fol­low­ers of both Tao­ism and Bud­dhism in­creas­ing in­China, there is a need for the tem­ples to be ren­o­vated to adapt to the needs of fol­low­ers.

“We al­soneed­tomeldtheele­ments of­mod­ern­lifestyle in the de­sign, such as­theuseof light, elec­tric­ityand­com­puter tech­nol­ogy,” he said.

taken by Ja­panese tourists. in 1923 from the orig­i­nal Dey­ouguan Tem­ple can still be seen at the site.


The main hall of the new Dey­ouguan Tem­ple on Maoshan Moun­tain, Jiangsu prov­ince. Ar­chi­tect Tao Jin bor­rowed ideas from the old tem­ple to build the new struc­ture.

The Dey­ouguan Tem­ple after its re­con­struc­tion.

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