Carving out a legacy

Updated: Nov 28, 2023 By Fang Aiqing CHINA DAILY Print
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The roof of the hall is decorated with figurines at the end of its diagonal ridges.CHINA DAILY

The other three skill sets, mainly used in building residential structures, stem from Beijing, ancient Huizhou (part of Anhui and Jiangxi provinces) and southern Fujian province.

One noted name among the Xiangshan carpenters is Kuai Xiang of the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), who is attributed as being one of the key figures behind the design and construction of the Forbidden City.

His name is particularly associated with today's Tian'anmen Rostrum, which used to serve as the front gate of the royal palace, and the three main halls, including Taihe Dian (Hall of Supreme Harmony), where major imperial ceremonies were held.

The Taihe Dian is noted for its grandeur, with its double-eaved, hip roof covered with more than 80,000 golden glazed tiles, supported by an intricate beam structure and 72 columns.

Nestled beneath the eaves and the roof, connecting the beam structure and the columns and transferring the weight of the roof evenly to the columns, are 650 sets of dougong, each with layers of crisscrossed, upside-down small arches (gong) and blocks (dou) to hold the arches, among other modular parts. This forms the shape of an inverted triangle.

The roof is, notably, decorated with figurines of an immortal and 10 monsters at the end of its diagonal ridges, the one and only example in ancient Chinese architecture, indicating it was the highest-level palatial construction in the royal palace.

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