Antique Wooden Doors and Windows in Chinese Architecture

If window frames are likened to be the eyes of a building, then it will be no exaggeration to say that Chinese architecture has the most beautiful eyes in the world. (Kathleen Tyler Conklin / Flickr)
If window frames are likened to be the eyes of a building, then it will be no exaggeration to say that Chinese architecture has the most beautiful eyes in the world. (Kathleen Tyler Conklin / Flickr)

In traditional Chinese architecture, antique wooden doors and windows are symbols of Chinese culture and art. Long ago, the Chinese people had their wishes and blessings engraved onto window frames. These archaeological relics reveal that the carving styles have varied ever since the Spring Autumn and Warring States Period.

Windows with mullion, lattice, and oblique grids dividing up the windows can be observed on Han Dynasty’s funerary pottery houses and stone reliefs.

During the Song Dynasty, the heyday of Chinese architecture, window frame art developed very quickly. During this stage, a series of artistic and higher-valued aesthetic-styled windows and doors emerged. Among them, the paneled style had the characteristics most associated with China and were still widely used up until the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Most of the traditional doors and windows seen today were made during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Examples of these can be seen in the gardens of Suzhou and on houses found in Huizhou.

Paneled windows have a special value and function in Chinese architecture. The name of the panel also varies according to its function. A panel used for separating the indoors from the outdoors is simply referred to as a panel, while one used to partition spaces within the indoors is known as a screen panel.

The main role of the window frames is to “put soul into the art” of a building. Whether portraying a piece of history or a landscape, every exquisite window frame has become an artistic crystallization of Chinese traditional culture.

In the history of world architecture, the beauty of traditional Chinese wooden architecture is unique. If window frames are likened to be the eyes of a building, then it will be no exaggeration to say that Chinese architecture has the most beautiful eyes in the world.

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A sculpture of the character Iron-Crutch Li* (Secret China)

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Star God of Rank and Affluence in Dongyang, Zhejiang. (Secret China)

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A sculpture of the legendary character Zhang Guolao**. (Secret China)

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A door cover with ice-cracked lines in Dongyuan Study, Xidi Village, Yi County, Anhui Province. (Secret China)

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A ‘window for unmarried daughters’ in the Faith Hall, Lu Village, Yi County, Anhui Province. (Secret China)

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