Why does Chinese contemporary architecture “lose its mind”?

Wang Changhua

Manjusri Square: the quintessence of Humanistic History of Old Chengdu

Every time I pass through Chengdu, if time permits, I will go to Manjushri Square not far from the railway station to sit for a while. First, take a rest and taste the snacks of Chengdu, and the most important thing is to once again look at the solemnity of this famous Buddhist temple and feel the solemnity and serenity of the place.

Manjusri Square takes Zen culture and folk culture as the theme, and takes the courtyard architecture of West Sichuan as the carrier, which fully embodies the quintessence of human history of old Chengdu.

Manjushri courtyard is full of cultural relics and many treasures. The temple is dedicated to more than 300 Buddha statues, including iron and steel casting, yarn removal, wood carving, stone carving and clay sculpture, which are very rich. In terms of age, there are unearthed stone carvings of the Liang Dynasty, iron precepts in the Tang and Song dynasties, bronze statues in the Qing Dynasty, and Burmese jade Buddhas, which are of high cultural relic value and artistic value. it provides valuable materials for us to study ancient sculpture, casting and other techniques. The temple also treasures the treasures of calligraphy and painting since the Ming and Qing dynasties, the most famous of which is the “empty forest” ink of Emperor Kangxi in 1702, and the banner of “Sea and Moon” by Emperor Kangxi in the Song Dynasty. In addition, there are Buddhist relics such as the Bei Ye Sutra in India, the skulls of Master Xuanzang in the Tang Dynasty, Japanese gilded sutra slips in the Tang Dynasty, the robes of thousands of Buddhas, embroidered Guanyin, Manjusri, and tongue Blood Hanbao.

Indeed, outside the red wall is the world of mortals and the noisy sound of the city, while in the courtyard separated by the wall, there are bursts of Sanskrit sounds and curls of bells, a quiet and peaceful scene.

After settling down the tired body and mind, satisfying the gluttonous appetite with delicious snacks, and then learning from the people of Chengdu to have a cup of tea, I made an important discovery.

The area of Wenshu Academy is not vast, and it can only be regarded as a small “sunken island” in Chengdu, where high-rise buildings stand everywhere. But it is this “isolated island”, which is quite different from the high-rise buildings that stand savagely around, and has a bit of a legacy and independent character. The tall buildings around them are no more than 20 years old, but they have already shown a kind of old sloppiness: birdcage-like balconies are piled with sundries of daily life; to make matters worse, the black dirt on the white walls seems to be flowing down the walls.

Professor Li Qingliang, vice dean of the Yuelu Academy of Sciences of Hunan University, said with emotion about the current architectural situation in Qiancheng, that no matter which city you walk in today, all you can see are identical buildings– they look very modern, but there is no creativity on the other side of the city. This is true in big cities, even in small counties, and in office buildings, even in residential areas-buildings are like Tetris, apartments are like bird cages, lack of individual beauty, and are not “Chinese” at all.

This is the so-called modern architecture that has grown rapidly in various cities in China and has been quickly abandoned by the times in the process of urbanization with continuous high temperatures in recent years…. Their longest life span is only about 20 years.

However, the Wenshu Academy, which has existed in Shu for thousands of years, is still a boarding house for people’s hearts: unworldly people recite sutras, meditate, meditate, and practice their body and mind here; secular people drink tea, relax, set up a dragon gate, and play mahjong. Delicious snacks and fragrant pickles make people linger.

At this point, I suddenly realized that architecture is not only a place for people to live in, but also a place for all living beings to put their hearts and minds.

Shanghai Bund: external luxury and noble quality

In the spring of 2011, the most beautiful April day in the world, I wandered along the Bund of Shanghai and thought about it for a long time.

Every city has iconic buildings, and Shanghai is actually the Bund, which is somewhat exceptional. In fact, the soul of the Bund is a series of Western-style buildings. More specifically, banks in various countries. I greedily photographed the close-up, long-range and side views of each building from different angles until the camera ran out of power.

Most of the buildings on the Bund are multi-storey and high-rise buildings with a variety of styles, such as British Classical Building, British Neo-Classical Building, British Renaissance Asia Building (former Shanghai Metallurgical Design Institute), Shanghai General Association (now Dongfeng Hotel), Pudong Development Bank Building (former HSBC Building), Cha Wo Building (now Foreign Trade Bureau Building), etc. There are French classical style, French large residential style, Gothic style, baroque style, modern western style, East Indian style, eclecticism type, Chinese and Western blending type and so on, showing the coexistence of buildings all over the world. Therefore, this building complex, which starts from the Waibaidu Bridge of Suzhou River in the north and Jinling East Road all the way to Central Shandong Province in the south, is known as the “World Architecture Expo”. These buildings with the coexistence of classicism and modernism have become the symbol of Shanghai.

The street building of the Bund section pays attention to individuality, which constitutes the scene effect of collage. Neoclassical walls and baroque gables, there are British style, Italian style, French style, Spanish style and so on. For example, the new eclectic style of Huiluo, the new baroque red brick walls and flat coupons of Huisi and Liji, the red brick and white walls and Indian side colonnades of the Huizhong Hotel, and the American Art Deco style and green dome of the Saxon Building all highlight the architectural personality.

These Western buildings, which have existed for more than 100 years, why are they still so fascinating after a hundred years? Apart from the shape, the decoration of the facade and the exquisite relief, which is quite different from the traditional Chinese architecture, what kind of attraction do they have? These century-old buildings, although experienced more than a century of ups and downs, but do not show the state of old, still scattered elegant charm, awe-inspiring! On the other hand, opposite the sparkling Huangpu River, the new Shanghai landmark complex, marked by the Oriental Pearl, is more or less vulgar and Tuhao under the bizarre jewellery and colors.

I do not blindly worship foreigners, but a close comparison of the two, naturally came into being the above ideas.

From this point of view, architecture has personality!

The Thirteen alleys of Bafang: the “Grand View Garden” of National Architectural Art

If the Shanghai Bund complex is the epitome of western architecture projected in the east, then the remote western China, thousands of kilometers away from Shanghai, a place called Linxia in Gansu Province, still retains the relics of ancient Chinese residential buildings. One by one scattered antique brick buildings, is the concentration of the aesthetic taste of traditional architecture!

The 13th Lane of Bafang in Linxia is an ancient block with ethnic customs in Hezhou. From the Tang Dynasty to the present, eight Jiaofang and thirteen streets have been formed around the eight mosques, so they are called “Bafang thirteen alleys”. These buildings, which integrate Hui brick carving, Han woodcarving and Tibetan painting, integrate multi-ethnic characteristics, present a picture of secular life of Muslim people, and can be called the treasure of Hezhou national folk culture and the “Grand View Garden” of national architectural art.

Here, there are 13 original streets and alleys calmly and harmoniously, such as Dajie Lane, Yongzheng Lane, Tiejia Xiang, Shagaleng Lane, Renyi Lane, Wang Si Lane, Commissioner’s Lane, Shiqiao Lane, Bakou Lane, Da Nan Xiang, Xiao Nan Xiang, Xie Xiang, and Bei Xiang. The pattern of “six horizontal and seven vertical” is perfect, the momentum is extraordinary, and it is rare.

The resources of Bafang Shisanxiang Ancient Street Reserve are few in Gansu Province, and its unique history and culture are even less in Gansu Province.

There are profound historical and cultural deposits, simple humanities and folklore, and relatively well-preserved classical buildings of 26 courtyards.

Walking in the “Bafang Thirteen alleys”, I saw Muslim women wearing scarves, their faces brimming with serenity and serenity, wandering in the slate alleys in the fragrance of Beef Seasoned with Soy Sauce and in the dense atmosphere of covering bowls of tea. In a wide or narrow shop, a colorful flower paper umbrella emerges from time to time. If you look at the pattern carefully, the peony flowers are in the majority. And the laughter and noise of the children are heard from time to time.

In such a situation, it really makes people wonder, which era has it come to? Only from the children’s modern clothes, electric motorcycles parked everywhere in the alley, and the words “refreshments, coffee, barbecue” written on the shop plaque, will you suddenly wake up from the dream, and it turns out that this is also contemporary!

Mr. Wu Zhiyun, a reportage writer, sighed after an on-the-spot interview with “Bafang Thirteen alleys” that there is a thick juice of Linxia history and traditional culture everywhere. “I really didn’t expect that the remote northwest Linxia retains such complete ancient streets and alleys; it’s incredible that there is such a wonderful scenery in the 13th alleys of Bafang in the middle of winter!” He said with sincere emotion that the ancient city of Jiangnan, my hometown, almost has a considerable historical and cultural accumulation with the ancient city of Linxia. However, because of the impulse of “too hasty, too fast and excessive” urban construction, and even the wayward development of “disorder and disorder”, there is a sigh today: historic sites disappear, cultural symbols disappear, and nostalgia does not have any sustenance.

A tourist from Jiangsu said with emotion that as soon as I walked into the thirteen alleys of Bafang today, my eyes were full of scenery! Lifelike brick walls, scattered ancient buildings and historical antique collections make people feel the vastness of the Greater Chinese culture and the different customs of the Northwest! New scenic spots such as Bafang Thirteen Lane, which have remarkable characteristics and highlights of national culture and traditional culture, are bound to trigger a new round of hot spots in the search for roots, veins, fun and fun of Chinese culture!

At this point, I understand a truth, architecture, the original can also make people’s spiritual peace, abandon the current secular hustle and bustle, put the restless soul of modern people!

Old Summer Palace: the “Ning Xin’er” of the blending of the East and the West

If the Bund architecture in Shanghai represents the typical Western characteristics, and the 13th Lane of Bafang in Linxia, Gansu Province is the epitome of architecture with Chinese characteristics, then Old Summer Palace is the “Ning Xin’er” born after combining the architectural characteristics of the East and the West.

Old Summer Palace in the early winter of the year of Hai, although the natural scene in the garden can no longer be compared with the spring and summer season, it is still like a weaving tourist, picking a memorial of late autumn among the golden leaves of ginkgo trees.

I temporarily put up with my feelings about Old Summer Palace’s painful history, but want to further clarify another question: as a product of the blending of eastern and western architectural cultures, does her hybrid gene have the same unique advantages as human beings?

While walking in the garden, I suddenly found a satisfactory answer, and the “Western Building” in the garden answered this question for me.

The Western Building itself is not an authentic Western architecture, but a work produced by missionaries to cater to the curiosity of Chinese emperors. Its main significance lies in that it is “the first complete work with group scale since European architecture spread to China in the late Yuan and early Ming Dynasty, and it is also the first creative attempt to combine the two architectural systems and garden systems of the East and the West”. It is an attempt to localize the European baroque style, following the stone technology that has been systematic since the Song Dynasty, making a new attempt on the architectural decoration concept of Western style, and introducing a brand-new decorative theme. It combines the free decoration concept of baroque style with the traditional Chinese decoration concept to form a unique gorgeous decoration style, which is the ancestor of Chinese baroque style.

On the one hand, the construction of the Western Building reflected some flexibility in the concept of the rulers of the Qing Empire, reflecting the tolerance and acceptance of Western culture to a certain extent by the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty; on the other hand, the large-scale Western-style gardens that appeared in the royal garden were very precious because they truly recorded the exchange between Chinese and Western cultures. at the same time, it also proved that the two garden cultures had been unprecedentedly blended at that time. The birth of Western buildings has prompted the emergence of more imitating Western-style buildings with brick and stone structures in China. In the following more than a century, it influenced a number of Chinese architecture with baroque style, and even formed a new architectural style.

After Old Summer Palace was robbed, the Chinese-style garden architecture almost disappeared, and because the Western Building was mainly composed of masonry structure and relatively resistant to preservation, it became the place with the largest number of architectural relics in the architectural site of Old Summer Palace. On the contrary, the Western Building has virtually become the image of Old Summer Palace in the minds of most people, but in fact this is a misunderstanding of the real history.

Beijing siheyuan: contains the artistic Conception of Chinese Poetry

Li Qingliang said that architecture is a solidified history, which carries the politics, culture, customs and aesthetics of a nation and civilization in different historical periods, and is more intuitive and more real than any written record. One wall, one tile, one brick, one stone, one garden, one pavilion, one city on the first floor, all record history, tell history, and embody humanities. As early as two thousand years ago, Mencius said: “living and nourishing the body” means that the living environment and conditions directly affect people’s mental temperament and physical and mental health.

Can architecture affect a person’s growth to a certain extent? And even become the essence of a person’s life color? We find this possibility from Mr. Ye Jiaying, a famous contemporary poet.

First of all, Professor Deng Yunxiang, a veteran of the red circle in Shanghai, who, along with Wei Shaochang, Xu Gongshi, and Xu fuming, called the “four elders of the red school” in Shanghai, wrote in “the poetess and her family’s big courtyard house.”

Some feelings of Chinese poetry are inseparable from those of traditional Chinese life. “how deep is the courtyard”, “the rain hits the pear blossom and closes the door”, “there is no one to hang the curtain to the ground” …… All these artistic conceptions can only be felt in the tranquil siheyuan at that time, or even in the Houmendi house with several courtyards. It is unimaginable in Western-style houses and even dozens of floors of apartment buildings. Professor Ye has become a famous scholar and lyricist at home and abroad for many reasons, but I think the quiet atmosphere of the old courtyard house in the hutong must have had a great impact on her.

In response, Mr. Ye Jiaying said in the article “me and my Family’s Big quadrangle”: “the atmosphere and artistic conception of a kind of classical poetry in my former house did have a profound influence on me. This courtyard not only cultivated my lifelong interest in classical Chinese poetry, but also led me to the way of teaching classical poetry all my life.” “I grew up behind closed doors and had no other life experience, so the scenery in my courtyard became my main theme for writing poems.” “I myself, as a descendant of this courtyard, was born and raised here, and my intellectual life and emotional life were formed and conceived here, and I certainly have an inexhaustible connection with this courtyard.”

After reading this anecdote of Lin ci, we can’t help but have some poetic association with the courtyard in Beijing and the artistic conception of classical Chinese poetry. Of course, we cannot say that only by living in a courtyard can we create the artistic conception of classical Chinese poetry. But at least, a poet with delicate and rich emotion must be permeated with the life flavor of this kind of gentle classical architecture in her ci works.

Today, with the rapid urbanization of China, a large number of so-called “modern buildings” have grown savagely, which grow very fast and “grow old” very quickly! As a result of this sudden urbanization, everything is too late to think, do not allow you to precipitate, so there are a large number of “junk buildings”, rampant in the world. They do not talk about modeling, do not know how to decorate, just like children pile up wood as random and capricious. They neither inherit the excellent architectural tradition of China, but also do not understand the quintessence of excellent western architecture, which makes a large number of contemporary buildings seem “lost”, losing not only the “soul” of the East, but also the “soul” of the West. extremely vulgar and self-righteous.

Li Qingliang asked, what is Chinese architecture? How many houses are there today that match the style of “Chinese architecture”? How to integrate modern architecture and Chinese traditional culture organically, not only to retain the roots of Chinese culture, but also to find a balance between tradition and modernity, elegance and fashion? Can we take advantage of architecture as an entrance to look back at our spiritual home, get close to our traditions, embrace the world, and at the same time show a little more tenderness and respect for the cultural traditions of the Chinese people?

It’s time to stop fast-forward and slowly look back on the way we came.

You can think of the future as long as you can see the past, and so can architecture!

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