On the Use and Meaning of Wood in Chinese Imperial Architecture
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Wood is the primary structural building material of Chinese imperial architecture. This thesis argues that there are practical and symbolic reasons why wood was chosen instead of stone for politically and ritually important structures. Stone is connected to immortality and death so for buildings that must endure through time, masonry was the preferred building material for funerary contexts. Wood represents life and regrowth and was thus the preferred material for living structures. However, wood is vulnerable and such buildings degraded over time, so they had to be habitually rebuilt. This thesis then seeks to explore the ways in which this practice of rebuilding works within modern theories of architectural authenticity and modern conservation methods. It will argue that Imperial Chinese architecture does work within certain types of architectural authenticity and conservation methods.