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Special Topic Salon (LectureⅡ) : Philosophy in Chinese Traditional Architecture: Investigation centered on Chang’an City

Author: [Date]:2020-11-24 [Source]: [ClickTime]:

On October 26, 2020, the second phase of Special Salon of Chinese Philosophy master class in English -- Philosophy in Chinese Traditional Architecture: Investigation centered on Chang’an City(中国传统建筑中的哲学思想——以长安为中心的考察) was held in room 1412, Wenyuan Building. The salon was lectured by Associate professor Yuan Zhiwei from the School of Philosophy of Northwest University and hosted by Associate professor Wang Jing. The graduate students in English of the 2020 Chinese Philosophy master program participated in this Salon.

Professor Yuan explained the philosophical thoughts that was contained in Chinese ancient buildings from four aspects. The first is Basic Principles of Geomancy theory in Ancient China; The second is Geomancy and the geographical advantages of the site for Chang’ an; The third is Geomancy and the implied meaning of Chang’ an City planning; The fourth is “Nature and Man Are United as One”, as a conception of philosophy embodied by ancient Chang’ an).

First of all, the basic principles of Geomancy theory in Ancient China means that “Qi running in one yuan, and with this there are six forms are shaped on the hexagrams and it also can loan everything.” It also means that heaven and earth cannot leave the Qi. “It moves with the wind and stops with the boundary of water”. So the mountains around the rivers is the best. The ideal geographical environment is that the central area is a vast plain, surrounded by mountains and rivers, the northern mountains should be tall, and connected to the main dragon, the southern mountains should not be too high, the river flows through the central and  the best direction is flow from the northwest to the southwest. Mountains for the “dragon”, hills for the “sand”. The central plain suitable for building houses and cities called “cave” and water must not be lack, otherwise it is difficult to gather aura.

Secondly, the Geomantic and the geographical advantages of the site for Changan City, mountains around water, terrain is closed, and internal is flat. According to the Geomantic rules, getting water for top, hiding wind for second; The depth and the height of the city are reflected in the  planning of Chang’ an. Taking the ancient city Chang’ an as an example, Mr. Yuan described the “mountain ring”, which means that the mountains around the ancient Chang’ an: Zhuque face to Zhongnan Mountain, Xuanwu back of Cuoe Mountain and Jiuzong Mountain(North Mountain), Qinglong left of Huashan mountain; Baihu Right of Taibai, Longshan. “River around” means that “eight rivers around Chang’ an”, the North is JingWei, the East is Chanba, the West is Fenglao, the South Haoxue; And with the Qinling was included, which was called “Eight rivers and Kowloon”.

In the third part of the explanation of “Geomancy and the implied meaning of Chang’ an City planning”, professor Yuan explained from the cosmic symbol of Chang’ an in Tang Dynasty to the cosmic implication of Xi’ an in Ming and Qing Dynasties. It also illustrates that the ancient Chang’ an is a simulation of the center of the universe (Zichen, Beiji) from the aspects of “Four directions and eight octets”, “Five Elements and four seasons”, “The Emperor’ s Pole and the cross of the Heart of Heaven” and “the eight Diagrams and the symbol of the universe”.

Professor Yuan claims that the ancient Chinese architectural culture not only reflects the philosophy of “Nature and Man Are United as One”, which means that the city planning and design concept of the Ming Dynasty pursues the harmony and unity between Nature and human society. Moreover, it also reflects the idea of “Following the Teaching of Nature”, which means that the city planning and design concepts from the Qin and Han dynasties to the Ming and Qing Dynasties are basically simulating the imaginary universe model through cities and buildings, which exactly reflects the idea of organic cosmology in ancient Chinese philosophy.

During the discussion section, the foreign students consulted professor Yuan if Chinese architecture still adheres to Geomancy and Chinese philosophy, such as the idea of the unity of nature and man and reason of the importance of the Nine Fifth Lines in the eight Diagrams. At the same time, connected with the reality of their own country, the foreign students had further exchanges and discussions with the teachers on topics such as “The Taj Mahal is also connected with Geomancy” and “Why the western ancient buildings are mainly stone buildings while the Chinese ancient buildings are mainly wood buildings”.

In this salon, students not only expanded their understanding of Chinese ancient architectural culture, but also had a more intuitive and personal experience of the city design of ancient Chang’ an. Furthermore, it and also had a profound understanding of Chinese ancient architecture and the Chinese philosophy that is contained in the ancient city design.

AuthorLi Kai