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City planning and development of China

Features : Civilization Early development Chinese Architecture Ancient Chinese urban planning Urban Planning in Pre-Industrial China Development

Chinese civilization originated in various regional centres along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era What is now China was inhabited by Homo erectus more than a million years ago. The Neolithic age in China can be traced back to between 12,000 and 10,000 BC. The Xia Dynasty of China (from c. 2100 to c. 1600 BC) is the first dynasty to be described. Imperial China - The first unified Chinese state was established by Qin Shi Huang of the Qin state in 221 BC. An important feature in Chinese architecture is its emphasis on articulation and bilateral symmetry.

Architectural bilateral symmetry

An important feature in Chinese architecture is its emphasis on articulation and bilateral symmetry, which signifies balance. Articulation, in art and architecture, is a method of styling the joints in the formal elements of architectural design. Bilateral symmetry and the articulation of buildings are found everywhere in Chinese architecture, from palace complexes to humble farmhouses. Secondary elements are positioned either side of main structures as two wings to maintain overall bilateral symmetry.

Contemporary Western architectural practices typically involve surrounding a building by an open yard on the property. This contrasts with much of traditional Chinese architecture, which involves constructing buildings or building complexes that take up an entire property but encloses open spaces within itself. These enclosures serve in temperature regulation and in venting the building complexes. Sky wells also serve as vents for rising hot air, which draws cool air from the lowers stories of the house and allows for exchange of cool air with the outside.

The projected hierarchy and importance and uses of buildings in traditional Chinese architecture are based on the strict placement of buildings in a property/complex. Buildings with doors facing the front of the property are considered more important than those facing the sides. Building facing away from the front of the property are the least important. Front-facing buildings in the back of properties are used particularly for rooms of celebratory rites and for the placement of ancestral halls and plaques.

Cosmological concepts
Chinese architecture from early times used concepts from Chinese cosmology such as feng shui (geomancy) and Taoism to organize construction and layout from common residences to imperial and religious structures. Taoism is a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony Screen walls to face the main entrance of the house, which stems from the belief that evil things travel in straight lines. Door gods displayed on doorways to ward off evil and encourage the flow of good fortune. Animals and fruits that symbolize good fortune and prosperity, such as bats and pomegranates, respectively.

Early Development
Urban planning originated during the urbanization of the Yellow River valley in the Neolithic Age The process of centralizing power in a political state. The earliest Chinese urban planning was a synthesis of Longshan traditional cosmology, geomancy, astrology, and numerology. This synthesis generated a diagram of the cosmos, which placed man, state, nature, and, heaven in harmony. The city was planned in the context of this cosmic diagram to maintain harmony and balance, principles important in Chinese law.

Neolithic age

Urbanization begins at Banpo (4,800-3,750 BC) on the zhongyuan plain of the Yellow River. Banpo in East Asia was the first instance of specialized architecture. Banpo was composed of 200 round pit houses and the Great Hall across 5 hectares and surrounded by a ditch. At this early stage the principle of south-facing entry was firmly established.


The pit houses were sited for solar gain by aligning the door to the Yingshi asterism just after the winter solstice. As in other Neolithic communities, life at Banpo was synchronized to the agricultural year, which was timed by the movement of the Big Dipper, which functioned as a celestial clock.

Longshan Culture
Longshan Culture (3000-2000 BC)arrived from the east one thousand years after Banpo in the same area. This arrival is mythologized by the story of the Yellow Emperor. The hierarchical and militaristic aspects of Longshan culture are evident in their cities. Their shape is a walled square filled with square houses. The transition from round to square homes is always accompanied by centralizing power in history. The square shaped city, itself a product of centralized power, historically arises a from a military encampment. Three levels of settlement emerged in the early Longshan state.

Bronze Age urbanization

Erlitou is sited at the confluence of the Lou and Yi rivers, a sacred place known as the Waste of Xia. Geographically, the Waste of Xia marked the centre of the ninein-one square earth. Geographically, the state was square shaped and centered on the ruler. As described in the Book of Documents. China is a square of 45,000 li with five nested squares spaced at 500 li to create five zones. This square was further subdivided into nine parts based on the now ancient nine-in-one square, which had become a prosperity symbol.

The nine-in-one square was transformed into the Holy Field symbol. Its importance cannot be underestimated as it is the geometric basis of ancient Chinese architecture, urban planning, and geography. By the time of the Xia Dynasty, the nine-in-one square territory of earth was divided into nine states. Although an important stage in urbanization, Erlitou was not a true city. It was a palace complex surrounded by an oversized Neolithic village.

The nine-in-one square

The nine-in-one square Concept

The ideal city was therefore a diagram of this multipurpose cosmological symbol drawn upon the landscape. The construction (ying) of the capital city by the artisans each side is 9 li (~3 km) in length with three gates. 9 longitudinal and 9 latitudinal lines divide the interior of the city with north to south road. A temple of ancestors was placed in square 7. A temple of agriculture in square 3. An audience hall in square 1. Market was not considered of high importance and placed in square 9 to the north of the palace. The palace was located in square 5 of the Holy Field.

Iron Age urbanization

As China moved into the Iron Age the total control of the Zhou over their empire dissolved into multiple states each one. These period was a time of great urbanization in China. Chengzhou city itself finally became the political capital of the Eastern Zhou in 510 BCE (its fortification tripled in width). This period although politically chaotic was a great period of urbanization, and experimentation of architecture and urban planning. The city marketplace with tower was a new feature of this era that marked the beginning of an integrated economic function of cites. The architecture of the warring states featured high walls, large gates, and towers. The development of the tower as a symbol of power and social order especially defined this era.

Models of watchtowers and other buildings.

Imperial Era
The imperial era of urban planning was marked by the theory of a national master plan which extended imperial authority uniformly across China by creating a hierarchy economic and political of cites. Historically, the cites of the six states were combined into one unified regional system under the Qin Dynasty unification of China. The imperial capital was meant to exist outside of any one region, even the one it was physically located in. To achieve this it used a text based plan, a cult of heaven, forced migration, and symbolization of the city as the Emperor. The evolution of the imperial capital occurred in three stages, first the super-regional capital on Xianyang, followed by the semi-regional and semi-textual capital of Chang'an, and finally fully realized in the fully textual capital of Luoyang. The capital city of the Western Han Dynasty, Chang'an, was built to exceed its predecessor, Xianyang. Luoyang, the capital of the Eastern Han Dynasty, would in turn become the model of all future imperial cities.


Use of large structural timbers for primary support of the roof of a building. Wooden timber, usually large trimmed logs, are used as load-bearing columns and lateral beams for framing buildings and supporting the roofs. These structural timbers are prominently displayed in finished structures. However, it is not known how the ancient builders raised the huge wooden load bearing columns into position.

Although structural walls are also commonly found in Chinese architecture, most timber framed architecture are preferred when economically feasible. Timber frames are typically constructed with jointnary and doweling alone, seldom with the use of glue or nails. Structural stability is further ensured through the use of heavy beams and roofs, which weighs the structure down. Using even numbers of columns in a building structure to produce odd numbers of bays (). With the inclusion of a main door to a building in the centre bay, symmetry is maintained. The common use of curtain walls or door panels to delineate rooms or enclose a building, with the general deemphasis of load-bearing walls in most higher class construction. Flat roofs are uncommon while gabled roofs are almost omnipresent in traditional Chinese architecture.

Materials and history

Unlike other building construction materials, old wooden structures often do not survive because they are more vulnerable to weathering and fires and are naturally subjected to rotting over time. Although now non-existent wooden residential towers, watchtowers, and pagodas predated it by centuries. Later use of brick instead of wood had much to do with its endurance throughout the centuries. brick and stone architecture gradually became more common and replaced wooden edifices. The earliest walls and platforms in China were of rammed earth construction, and over time, brick and stone became more frequently used. This can be seen in ancient sections of the Great Wall of China, while the brick and stone Great Wall seen today is a renovation of the Ming Dynasty (13681644).

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By Haider husain Aman Agarwal Ritesh singh