Recre­at­ing Splen­did and Ro­man­tic Jing-chu Style Ar­chi­tec­ture


Special Focus - - Contents - Xu Kuang 许旷

The jux­ta­po­si­tion of the two Chi­nese char­ac­ters “荆 ( jing)” and “楚 ( chu)” first ap­peared in a poem “Only thy Jing and Chu peo­ple, re­sid­ing in the south land,” recorded in The Book of Po­ems, the first col­lec­tion of Chi­nese an­cient po­etry. Chu peo­ple had not only cre­ated the amaz­ing Chu cul­ture in Chi­nese his­tory , but also brushed a col­or­ful splen­dor in the sto­ry­line of ori­en­tal ar­chi­tec­ture, whose in­no­va­tive spirit serves as a good ex­am­ple for mod­ern peo­ple to fol­low.

Long Gone are the Pav­il­ions and Palaces of the Kings of Chu

Jing- chu cul­ture de­rived its name from the State of Chu ( 1,115B. C.- 223B. C.) and Chu peo­ple, which was a rep­re­sen­ta­tive type of re­gional cul­ture de­vel­oped from the Zhou Dy­nasty (1046B.C.-256B. C.) to the Pe­riod of the War­ring States ( 475 B. C.221B.C.) in the Jiang­han Plain area, which mainly refers to what is now Hubei Prov­ince. In the eyes of Guo Heping, the deputy chief ar­chi­tect from CSADI ( Cen­tral South Ar­chi­tec­ture De­sign In­sti­tute Co., Ltd), an­cient ar­chi­tec­ture is a best record of the his­tory and cul­ture of each dy­nasty.

Af­ter Chu State was de­feated by the King of Qin State, all the im­por­tant build­ings in the State of Chu were ei­ther torn down or looted, lead­ing to an abrupt end to the bril­liance of Chu ar­chi­tec­ture. The re­main­ing Chu build­ings were long lost in his­tory, for the an­cient earth- and- wood build­ings were prone to weath­er­ing. Fur­ther­more, in or­der to pre­vent the resur­gence of the Chu State, Em­peror Qin Shi­huang, the first em­peror in feu­dal China, broke up Chu land into seven pre­fec­tures, thus, the ar­chi­tec­ture of Chu was as­sim­i­lated by the ad­ja­cent prov­inces and their fea­tures were grad­u­ally elim­i­nated.

Though the an­cient build­ings of Chu style had gone with the wind, their ro­man­tic charm was recorded in his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments. Not only did the po­ets of Chu State like Qu Yuan and Song Yu re­peat­edly de­pict splen­did Chu build­ings in their works, men of let­ters in var­ied dy­nas­ties all cher­ished the mag­nif­i­cent build­ings in the Chu State and sang for them over and over again. For in­stance, they were been de­picted in Yue Fu Po­ems of Han Dy­nasty. Both Li Bai and Su Shi, who were fa­mous po­ets of the Tang and Song Dy­nas­ties re­spec­tively, ex­pressed their ad­mi­ra­tion for those

great Chu build­ings and the re­gret for be­ing un­able to ap­pre­ci­ate their beauty in per­son. Even the great poet Li Bai of Tang Dy­nasty sighed, “Bril­liant are Qu Yuan’s po­ems, like the sun and the moon shin­ing in the sky; while long gone are the pav­il­ions and palaces of the Kings of Chu.” The fact that in the po­ems of Tang alone, there were more than ten oc­cur­rences for the phrase “the Palace of Chu” fully re­veals the tremen­dous cul­tural in­flu­ence of Chu Ar­chi­tec­ture.

On July 23rd, 2013, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee Xi Jin­ping men­tioned “Jing- chu style Ar­chi­tec­ture” when in­spect­ing in Hubei. He stressed that the ur­ban and ru­ral con­struc­tion in Hubei should re­flect the unique fea­tures of Hubei and Jing-chu cul­ture. Ac­cord­ing to Guo Heping, Jing- chu style can be gen­er­ally un­der­stood as the ar­chi­tec­tural style cre­ated by an­cient Chu peo­ple that has con­tin­ued to this day. In com­par­i­son with that of the ad­ja­cent ar­eas, Jing- chu style ar­chi­tec­ture is not as preva­lent; how­ever, af­ter all, the Chu State was one of the five su­per pow­ers in the Pe­riod of Spring and Au­tumn and one of the seven su­per pow­ers in the Pe­riod of War­ring States, Jing- chu cul­ture had been his­tor­i­cally strong with its ar­chi­tec­ture as a bril­liant part. Gao Jiehua, an ex­pert in Chu Stud­ies, once com­mented that, the ar­chi­tec­tural skill of Chu State, with their re­fined ma­te­ri­als and com­plete con­struc­tion tools, had been in the front ranks of the time.

“In the feu­dal times, the monarch had al­ways been the gen­eral di­rec­tor of his­tor­i­cal cul­ture. As King Huai of Chu had spe­cial pref­er­ence for ar­chi­tec­ture, the King of Qin or­dered the build­ings of Chu be de­mol­ished, which, in ef­fect, ru­ined the ma­te­rial foun­da­tion for the spirit of Chu State. There­fore, the study on Chu ar­chi­tec­ture has ac­tu­ally been a co­hort study,” said Guo Heping. At present, to seek Jing- chu style, one can only search for its root from his­tor­i­cal sites, and get in­spi­ra­tion from the po­ems and songs of Chu peo­ple.

Guo Heping be­lieved, to cre­ate the ar­chi­tec­ture of Jing- chu style means we should in­herit the ex­cel­lent tra­di­tions of Chu cul­ture, and arouse our in­stinct for cre­at­ing beauty so as to make the ur­ban and ru­ral build­ings in Hubei take on their unique fea­tures.

Recre­at­ing the El­e­gance and Ro­mance of Chu Ar­chi­tec­ture

The artis­tic fea­ture of Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­ture has been in the trend of di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion over the time. In the early pe­riod of re­form and open­ing- up,

there had been the dis­tinc­tions among Pek­ing style, Shang­hai style, and Lin­nan style in Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­ture. Later on, more styles suc­ces­sively ap­peared, like Bashu style, Sinkiang style, and so on. Judg­ing from the rise and de­vel­op­ment of these styles, while all the re­gions were ex­plor­ing and car­ry­ing for­ward the cul­tural fea­tures of their own re­gions, they all de­fined their dif­fer­ences from the styles of other re­gions.

Guo Heping be­lieves that the pri­mary pur­pose for a build­ing is to meet the hous­ing needs of the peo­ple and the ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion and cli­mate con­di­tions of an area are also taken into ac­count. So, when build­ing their houses, Chu peo­ple placed great at­ten­tion to high sty­lo­bates and deep eaves ex­tend­ing from the beam promi­nently, as it is hot and rainy in Jing- chu, deep eaves could help pro­tect the build­ing against the sun and the rain. Most of the Kings of Chu loved to con­struct their palaces on high sty­lo­bates, among which the Palace of Zhanghua Tai ( 535B. C.) built by King Ling of Chu was the most fa­mous one, which had great im­pacts on the tall build­ings built af­ter the Qin and Han Dy­nas­ties. Some his­tor­i­cal sites in Wuhan, such as Qin Tai, a com­mem­o­ra­tive build­ing for the great friend­ship be­tween a mu­si­cian named Yu Boya and his bo­som friend Zhong Ziqi, The Palace of Em­peror Yu and Ji, and Pavil­ion Qinchuan are the cases in point.

The great poet Qu Yuan of the Chu State said in a poem col­lected in TheSong­sofChu that they could stay in the grand warm house with deep courts in win­ter, and keep a cool in­te­rior hall in sum­mer.

Guo Heping main­tained, one should al­ways be able to find in a build­ing, whether it was a tra­di­tional build­ing or a mod­ern one, some­thing closely linked with life to­day. Since the essence of build­ings is to serve peo­ple, good func­tional qual­ity

有特色的风格是没有生命力的。郭和平说,要全面了解荆楚建筑,除了从出土文物、历史典籍中去寻找蛛丝马迹,还要从民间去找, “礼失求诸野”,历史文化虽漫长,王朝湮灭,文化还在民间,“从出土的日用品来看,手工如此精细,建筑会差吗?荆楚遗风有存留,建筑造型有所记载,我们据此来通过现代工艺去体现。”


当前楚式建筑的建设实践和推广成效并不乐观,与徽派建筑等地方特色明显的地域建筑相比,这不 能不说是一种遗憾。“推广地方特色建筑意义重大,这与习近平总书记提出的美丽中国梦一致,如果神州大地上充斥的都是西洋建筑,最终会失去我们华人自己的家园。”


郭和平认为,楚式建筑的推广成效差主要有两方面的原因。一是认识问题,在早期正统的建筑学 中,有对中华民族的轻视。这与当时社会极弱有关,导致社会各方面都不同层次产生崇洋媚外的心态。



and ad­vanced fa­cil­i­ties are the ba­sis for the suc­cess of mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture. Guo Heping held that, with the ex­plo­ration of na­tional cul­ture and the essence of re­gional ar­chi­tec­ture as the foun­da­tion, and com­bin­ing with the con­di­tions of con­struc­tion sites and the spe­cific re­quire­ments of the users, cre­at­ing unique ar­chi­tec­tural char­ac­ter would be the supremacy of the art of ar­chi­tec­ture. In the same way that each piece of mu­si­cal work car­ries its own melody, and the lyric for each song con­tains its own spe­cial mean­ing, only the town and coun­try­side, which re­flect lo­cal eth­nic char­ac­ter­is­tics, could em­body the nos­tal­gia for one’s home­town, and only such per­son­al­ized build­ings could touch one’s heart.

Chu peo­ple ad­vo­cated the the­ory that man was an in­te­gral part of na­ture, so they sought to make their build­ings highly fused with na­ture, which was re­vealed in their pur­suit of ge­o­mancy. “We should in­herit ge­o­mancy dis­crim­i­nat­ingly,” said Guo Heping, “by re­mov­ing the su­per­sti­tious and bad parts, and tak­ing the sci­en­tific part, which con­cerns the phys­i­cal el­e­ments of hu­man set­tle­ments, like wind, wa­ter, light, earth, moun­tains, and plants, which is the essence of mod­ern ge­o­mancy and is help­ful for hous­ing de­vel­op­ment.”

Chu- style ar­chi­tec­ture is not sim­ple and static; in­stead, it in­te­grates the styles of both south­ern and north­ern China, and con­tains the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the east and the west of China. Guo Heping held that ar­chi­tec­ture of the north­ern style tends to be square and up­right and is some­what ab­stract; while, the south­ern style on the other hand, is re­fined and del­i­cate; and Bashu ar­chi­tec­ture in west­ern China is sim­ple and art­less, and Wu- yue style in east­ern China is grace­ful and fem­i­nine ow­ing to their unique cul­tural fea­tures.

Only Jing- chu cul­ture man­ages to strike a bal­ance, which is re­fined but not too fem­i­nine and del­i­cate and still con­tains its own vigor and dar­ing courage.

Only af­ter such com­par­i­son and ex­plo­ration, can the fea­tures of Jing- chu style be high­lighted, and a style without fea­tures is life­less. Guo Heping said. To have a com­pre­hen­sive un­der­stand­ing of Jingchu style ar­chi­tec­ture, be­sides trac­ing the signs and clues from the un­earthed relics and his­tor­i­cal books and records, one can go to the folks for that. Af­ter all, even Con­fu­cius once said, “When the eti­quette is lost, one can still find it prac­ticed in the pop­u­lace.” Sim­i­larly, dy­nas­ties were lost in the long his­tory, but cul­ture would be re­tained among the folks. “Judg­ing from the un­earthed ar­ti­cles of daily use, the hand­crafts had been so ex­quis­ite, not to men­tion the ar­chi­tec­ture. So, based on the re­main­ing Jing- chu relics and the record of the ar­chi­tec­tural im­age, we could em­body the Jing-chu style by means of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.”

Pur­su­ing the Soul of Jing- chu Style Ar­chi­tec­ture

At present, com­pared with other re­gional ar­chi­tec­tures, like Hui- style ar­chi­tec­ture, which is typ­i­cal of An­hui Prov­ince, the con­struc­tion prac­tice and pro­mo­tion of Chu ar­chi­tec­ture has not been too suc­cess­ful, which is def­i­nitely a great re­gret. “Pro­mot­ing ar­chi­tec­ture with re­gional char­ac­ter­is­tics is of great sig­nif­i­cance, which is in agree­ment with the beau­ti­ful China Dream put for­ward by Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Xi Jin­ping. If China is filled with build­ings of the West­ern style, we will lose our own homes in the end,” said Guo Heping.

“We should make the past serve the present and dis­play the mod­ern func­tions of the build­ings with mod­ern crafts. As China is such a vast coun­try, there are huge dif­fer­ences among dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. So, be­sides meet­ing the func­tional





(摄影 / 石海)

needs, build­ings should also pos­sess na­tional char­ac­ter­is­tics, not just Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics, but more im­por­tantly, the lo­cal fea­tures. Only in this way, can we es­cape the em­bar­rass­ment that “all our towns and cities look the same, and the vil­lages are all con­structed in the same pat­tern.”

Guo Heping held that, the fail­ure of the pro­mo­tion of Chu ar­chi­tec­ture mainly re­sulted from the fol­low­ing two rea­sons. Firstly, this is a re­sult of psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems. In the early or­tho­dox ar­chi­tec­tural tra­di­tions, there had been con­tempt for the Chi­nese na­tion, which had a lot to do with the fact that China was ex­tremely weak at that time, and which in turn led to the ex­o­cen­tric men­tal­ity in ev­ery sec­tor of so­ci­ety, more or less.

Sec­ondly, this is a prob­lem spe­cific to the stage of so­cial de­vel­op­ment. “Any project, no mat­ter how well you have planned, needs the joint ef­forts of peo­ple of sev­eral gen­er­a­tions to ac­com­plish. As our coun­try is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing, it would be hard to make great dif­fer­ence to the present sit­u­a­tion in the short term,” says Guo Heping. “From the per­spec­tive of the mod­ern func­tions of build­ings, is ev­ery Chi­nese per­son sat­is­fied with their liv­ing con­di­tions? Maybe the qual­ity for both the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior en­vi­ron­ment fails to meet cer­tain stan­dard. How­ever, that does not mean we will aban­don our pur­suits be­cause of the dif­fi­cul­ties.”

Ar­chi­tec­ture is a kind of vis­ual art in­volv­ing form and space, whose style is em­bod­ied in con­crete im­ages. In these years, there have been some Jingchu cul­tural el­e­ments in­te­grated into the de­sign of some pub­lic build­ings to some ex­tent. Be­sides the artis­tic ex­pres­sion in in­dus­trial de­sign, some

prop­er­ties of the de­vel­op­ers also dis­play the pur­suit for Chu- ar­chi­tec­ture. For in­stance, the project of Baoli Huadu, in which Guo Heping has par­tic­i­pated, con­tains some mod­ern build­ings that present the beauty of Chu ar­chi­tec­ture both in its en­tirety and in de­tail.

What is worth men­tion­ing is that, there have been a group of high- level ar­chi­tects in Hubei, with whose joint ef­forts, some mod­ern build­ings like Hubei Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum, Wuhan Qin­tai Grand Theatre, and Hubei Cul­tural Town for Pub­lish­ing have demon­strated a dis­tinc­tive Jing- chu style.

Ger­man thinker Geothe once said that, mu­sic is fluid ar­chi­tec­ture, and ar­chi­tec­ture is frozen mu­sic. Hubei has un­der­gone great dif­fi­cul­ties in or­der to cre­ate Jing- chu style ar­chi­tec­ture with their unique fea­tures. Since China’s re­form and open­ing- up, the Hous­ing and Con­struc­tion De­part­ment of Hubei has con­tin­ued elect­ing for ex­cel­lent ar­chi­tec­tural de­signs over the years, and a large number of dis­tin­guished de­signs have been awarded, thus ac­cu­mu­lat­ing rich prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence in em­body­ing Jing-chu cul­ture.

“It is a de­vel­op­ment process from mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture, to mod­ern Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­ture, mod­ern Chi­nese re­gional ar­chi­tec­ture, and fi­nally to mod­ern Chi­nese re­gional ar­chi­tec­ture with unique fea­tures. What we pur­sue is cre­at­ing sym­bolic ar­chi­tec­tural works of high qual­ity, which could stand the test of time, and which will be ac­cepted and loved by peo­ple in Hubei. Jing-chu style ar­chi­tec­ture is bound to be bril­liant and will oc­cupy a spe­cial po­si­tion in the his­tory of the world ar­chi­tec­ture,” said Guo Heping. (Pho­tos by Shi Hai)

武汉大学 Wuhan Uni­ver­sity

龙王阁 dragon King Pavil­ion

晴川阁 Qingchuan Pavil­ion

宝通禅寺 The Bao­tong Tem­ple

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