Zhaorong Peng


Like the ideas of "monad" or "oneness" which speak to the mutual presence of the "physical", "mental", and "spiritual" in the Western hermetic sense, China has developed the idea of "tian ren he yi" (the unity of Heaven and man). The definition of this idea is rather complicated, because "tian" means not only "nature" but also imperial power. Firstly, this idea refers to the harmony between nature and human beings. Secondly, it reveals ancient shamanic belief of the king being the axle between the heaven, human beings, and the earth, who possessed the rightful imperial power. In comparison with monad theory, "tian ren he yi" is not merely the Chinese cosmology, but the metaphor for hereditary transfer of imperial power, justification for the legitimacy to rule, the philosophy that the king must govern subjects according to the universal order as well as ancestral worship. The most striking example of using architectural elements to make a philosophical statement is the Chinese altars named "qiu", "xu", "tai", and "tan". Most Chinese altars were designed to resemble mountains because legend had it that these mountains upheld the sky. The mountain-like visual image has become one of the most important characteristics of many Chinese altars. Unlike European countries, the majority of Chinese buildings were made of wood instead of rocks, thus lacking monuments to record victories, conquests, and heroes. Consequently, the so-called monumentality cannot be found in China.

First Page


Last Page