Examples of Chinese Architecture

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I was grouped with another four members. We are assigned to locate the following area of interest on the given base map and visit them. Our agenda is to observe and document the key architectural features such as gates, courtyards, doors, windows, walls, roofs, materials, structural systems, etc. Furthermore, we were supposed to observe and make records of objects, people, shop houses and activities on streets that appeals to us and add character to our overall journey.

Our first destination was Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, we discovered the enormous roofs and the key features of the Chinese architecture. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum is a Tang-Styled Chinese Buddhist Temple in the heart of Chinatown. The temple features many facets of Buddhist arts and culture of Singapore. It also houses what the Buddhists regard as the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic in a stupa weighing 3.5 tonnes and composed of 320 kg of gold donated by devotees. It also houses other sacred relics of the Buddha, such as bone and tongue relics. The temple prides itself on the research made to ensure accuracy and authenticity of the design and architecture found here. The outside of this active Buddha Temple combined with museum appears of a Chinese pagoda that sits in the heart of Singapore Chinatown.

This temple incorporates elements of the Chinese Tang Dynasty of facade structures as the roof of Chinese red is spilled in a modern structure. In the shadow of the setting sun, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum depicts very Chinese presence of Buddhist Mandala. Eminent Sangha Museum feature life stories of monks in Singapore showcasing Buddhist arts and culture. It immerses one deep into the Buddhism life and culture for a better understanding.

Visitors are to abide in dressing modestly and avoid obscene appearance. Tranquility is important with respect to the temple and its mission where visitors who are not Buddhist, nor religious in any shape or form, are able to attain inner solace for a moment's peace from today's brutal ever-changing world. Inscriptions are written in English and traditional Chinese. I like this temple for its beautiful open-air garden atrium. It was worth a visit with an open mind.

Our second destination was Ann Siang Hill, we explored the Ann Siang Road and Club Street. We noticed the interesting architecture of the shop houses which combine Asian and European influences. We went to Ann Siang Hill was to explore the surroundings and to take some good shots of the interesting places in Singapore. Apart from its quaint and delightfully quiet stores, Ann Siang also boosts of intricate architecture and colors. Not only does Ann Siang Hill boast lovely and quaint books/clothing stores, it also has antique shop houses which house the cafes and various retail stores. A lovely combination of the old and new existing together.

Our third destination was Thian Hock Keng Temple, we were to observe and explore one of the Singapore’s OLDEST Chinese temples. The traditional beam and bracket systems used for supporting the magnificent roofs and capture the serenity of the courtyard. The significance shapes play in temple architecture, and the Thian Hock Keng is a fine example. It has windows that are circular to symbolize heaven, square to symbolize the earth, and tiles which were meticulously laid out either in square patterns to symbolize the mouth, implying that one would never go hungry here, or in an upside down “V” pattern, symbolizing “ren”, the Chinese word for “men”, to suggest that one can regard this place as a sanctuary. Characterized by orange-colored unglazed clay roof tiles, bricks and terracotta floor tiles. Finial ends of the curved roof ridge sweep outwards like ’swallow tails’ with ‘twining weed’ decorations only used above the upturned eaves. The generous use of granite typifies the Hokkien style as Quanzhou is a renowned center for granite sculptures and carvings. Elaborate symbolisms through paintings and carvings on various parts of the timber-bracketed structural system is easily distinguished from the Northern Chinese style which is mostly painted. The presence of chihu gong pumpkin-shaped struts suggests the likely use of Zhangzhou craftsmen in the construction of the temple. Yet, the imposing group of winged-fairies dou gong above the main entrance indicates the possible involvement of Quanzhou craftsmen in the carving of secondary timber members.

Our fourth destination was Nagore Durga Shrine, a good example that reflects the blend of the east and the west influences of Islamic Architecture. Although this is a Muslim place of worship, it is not a mosque, but a shrine, built to commemorate a visit to the island by a Muslim holy man of the Chulia people (Muslim merchants and moneylenders from India's Coromandel Coast) who was traveling around Southeast Asia spreading the word of Indian Islam. The most interesting visual feature is its facade: Two arched windows flank an arched doorway, with columns in between. Above these is a "miniature palace" -- a massive replica of the facade of a palace, with tiny cutout windows and a small arched doorway in the middle. The cutouts in white plaster make it look like lace. From the corners of the facade, two 14-level minarets rise, with three little domed cutouts on each level and onion domes on top. Inside, the prayer halls and two shrines are painted and decorated in shocking tacky colors.

Our fifth destination was the Fuk Tak Chi Temple Museum, upon entering, two imposing Chinese deities greet us at the doors. They symbolize ‘the Door God’ which, according to Chinese folklore, wards off evil spirits. Seeing as the Door Gods were our only companions on our visit, they appear to have warded off the museum-goers as well. Mostly consisting of one main open-air courtyard, a small hallway and altar beyond that, one can walk around the inside pretty quickly. There is a diorama in the middle of the hallway that depicts what the place might have looked like back in the day. And then again, not all museums or temples come to this magic doorway in its back wall. Step through the sliding glass door it feels like you have stepped outside except it’s air-conditioned. Once the back alley of Fuk Tak Chi, it has now been converted into the lobby of a hotel with a rather alfresco concept, high ceilings with glass panes that fill the hall with natural light.

Our sixth destination was the Al-Abrar Mosque, we explored the simple Indian style architecture and the key features of the Chinese Architecture. This mosque, also called Masjid Chulia, after the Chulias, the group of Indian moneylender immigrants who funded its construction, was originally erected as a thatched building in 1827, thus its Tamil name Kuchu Palli, which means "hut mosque." The building that stands today was built in the 1850s, and even though it faces Mecca, the complex conforms to the grid of the neighborhood's city streets. It was designated a national monument in 1974, and in the late 1980s, the mosque underwent major renovations that enlarged the mihrab and stripped away some of the ornamental qualities of the columns in the building. The one-story prayer hall was extended upward into a two-story gallery. Little touches like the timber window panels and fanlight windows have been carried over into the new renovations.

Our final destination was the URA Center, we explored the place and the key features of the Singapore map that they have. There were small buildings and the structure of the Singapore. It was a great experience exploring the places that we discovered from the map.

To conclude, it was fun and enjoyable discovering the places from Chinatown. The area of interest given from the map and the key architectural features which adds on to our journey. The experience was a fruitful one on discovering the places of Chinatown.