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Chinese Cultural Studies Center
編號: VIII - 174
Inscribed list: National List,Second Batch
Inventory no.: VIII - 174
Nominating unit(s): The Palace Museum
The construction of The Forbidden City in Beijing has a history of more than 600 years. Not only was it the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, but is also one of the most important examples of the construction technique of government official architecture. The official style of construction can be traced to the reign of Yongle (永樂) in the Ming Dynasty, when the Forbidden City was first being built. Emperor Yongle recruited the best artisans in the country to build his palace. However, there are no official records from the Ming dynasty that we have found today that documents this architectural process. As such, later artisans who worked on repairing the buildings in The Forbidden City referred to the document “Engineering Practices of the Ministry of Engineering in Qing Dynasty” 《清工部工程做法》, which records the construction techniques of the palace during the reign of Yongzheng (雍正). The document details “The Eight Big Works,” techniques that were commonly used in the construction of imperial and official buildings, including the techniques of tiling, carpentry, scaffolding, stone-work, earthwork, painting, frescoing, and wall-papering.
Taking woodwork as an example of one of the important categories of construction skills Engineering Practices records that when “stitching” units of wood together, the step called “Tanxian” (彈線) is of great importance, and therefore should only be done by an experienced master. Marks made on the woodwork should be done according to the standards set forth in Engineering Practices, to ensure accurate communication among artisans. There are many different types of wooden beams, and the precise measurements, functions, and construction steps of each type of wooden beam are laid out. When shaving the end of a beam, one should shave a mortise that is three-tenths of the cylindrical diameter. These are just some of the many instructions that the document contains.
Architectural designs also strictly adhere to codes of status. For example, the largest hall within the Forbidden City, Hall of Supreme Harmony, has the most levels of dougong (or interlocking wooden brackets at the top of a column). The motifs and subject matters of frescoes are also determined according to the status: the dragon and phoenix are the most noble and honored; geometric patterns are secondary; and flowers and plants, and scenery are used in the construction of middle or smaller-sized flower gardens. The platform of a royal building can be five feet high; a platform for a duke, marquis to a third-grade officer is two feet; a platform for the building of a fourth-grade office to a civilian is one foot high.
From 1912 to 1949, the political instability in northern China obstructed the maintenance of the Forbidden City. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the government restarted large-scale repairs of the palace complex, and in 1953 a restoration team for the Palace Museum was founded by artisans who were recruited from across the country, including “Shi Lao,” top ten masters who were respected for their skills: the carpenters Du Bai-tang (杜伯堂), Ma Jin-kao (馬進考), Mu Wen-hua (穆文華), and Zhang Wen-zhong (張文忠); the tilers Zhou Feng-shan (周鳳山) and Zhang Guo-an (張國安); the painters Zhang Liang-qing (張連卿) and He Wen-kui (何文奎); and the masons Liu Qing-xian (劉清憲) and Liu Rong-zhang (劉榮章). In the major renovation efforts that took place in 1973, the established restoration team had expanded to 300 people, who were the disciples of the old masters. Among the team members was Li Yong-ge (李永革), the current representative inheritor of official architecture construction technique of The Forbidden City. The way of transmission of these sets of skills is still by way of apprenticeship, information being passed down orally and by practical demonstration and experience.
Although continually there are repair projects of Qing dynasty official architecture to be done, there are less and less young people who are willing to learn the skill set necessary for restoration, considering it a blue collar occupation, and the apprenticeship period is long and difficult. Moreover, certain steps and components of the construction process are also being mechanized. In 2010 the renovation team for The Forbidden Palace was dissolved. Repair projects are outsourced to private contractors in similar procedures as normal construction projects. This negatively affects the quality of materials and techniques used, and the inheritance of traditional skills is also greatly hampered. To remedy this, in 2013 the Palace Museum held training courses for the first time, to teach front-line technicians the architectural plans of old buildings, characteristics of the Forbidden City, and applications of construction techniques. The media has also given help in promoting this culture, by producing programs that highlight the architecture of the Forbiden City, such as the documentary Masters in the Forbidden City 《我在故宮修文物》, broadcasted on CCTV in 2016.
Since 2008, “Construction Techniques of Official Architecture of the Forbidden City” has been included in the second batch of the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of China, nominated by the Palace Museum.
更多相關資料 MORE INFORMATION:
“Cultural Kaleidoscope – A Date with the Palace”(文化大觀園 – 與故宮相約), a documentary of cultural heritages in the Forbidden City, including an interview of Li Yong-ge (李永革), the representative inheritor of Official Architecture Construction Technique (The Forbidden City, Beijing), produced and broadcasted by Phoenix Television in 2015.