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This monograph argues that the concept of the curvature of the Chinese roof, which symbolizes the divine ‘flying bird’, was conceived as early as the totemic Shang times (16th-11th centuries BC). It further contends that the divine image expressed by the roof structure and the supporting brackets were two distinct structural components. The study examines the concepts of shen and ang, and the influence of the ‘literati landscape painting’ of the Song dynasty.

“This remarkably accessible book discusses its topic in a lucid and engaging manner. Lam Lai Sing is clearly very well informed and exhibits a passion for his material. . . . provides abundant material for East and Southeast Asianists, I am confident that this book will be well received not only by its specialist readers but also by a more general audience. . . students of design and architecture as well as scholars interested in Chinese cultural influences in Southeast Asia.” – Dr. Raul Pertierra, University of New South Wales

“In his lucid argumentation, Dr. Lam makes out a convincing case for his new theory. . . a significant contribution not only to architectural scholarship, but also to that of social change.” – Eric K-C Lye, OBE, B Arch, MFA, FRAIC, FHKIA, RIBA, Hon RICS, Hon AIA, Director of Studies of Architecture and Interior Design, The University of Hong Kong

“. . . of special interest for its implications for the social sciences, in particular for cultural anthropologists who want to gain insight into the lifestyle and religion of particularly the ancient Chinese ruling class of the Shang society. Dr. Lam’s new theory of the divine ‘flying bird’ certainly stimulates a discussion about the ancient religious thoughts, about the importance of religion among the ruling class, as well as the position of the ancient ruling class who used religion for control. . . . Dr. Lam’s research vitally includes traditional Chinese architectural development under the influence of modern European and American architecture during the 20th century. Last but not least, Dr. Lam’s reference to the ancient Chinese texts presents the architectural reader with a survey about the major theoretical approaches taken by both Chinese and Western scholars. I consider that by virtue of connecting ancient Chinese religious and philosophical thoughts to architectural design and development is indeed a pioneering work.” – F. Landa Jocano, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Asian Center.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (chapter headings):
1. The Origins and Early Development of Traditional Chinese Architecture
2. Further Development of Traditional Chinese Architecture: The Concepts of Qi and Shen
3. The Concept of Shen and Traditional Chinese Architecture (Shen, Ang, Corbel Brackets, Roof Ridge Decoration, Columns)
4. The Impact of “Literati Painting” on Traditional Chinese Architecture
5. The Collapse of the “Flying Bird” Concept (1850-2000 periods; Hong Kong; Macau; Taiwan, Korea; Japan, Singapore and Malaya)
Conclusion; Notes
Selected Bibliography: Chinese, English, Japanese Sources

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