Yingzao referred to the Chinese architectural practice prior to the nineteenth-century introduction
of the term jianzhu, the translation of “architecture.” The earliest preserved illustrated
government-issued building standard was titled Yingzao fashi. Published by the Southern Song
government in 1103, Yingzao fashi defined and regulated technical terms used to describe
imperial construction as well as specified the labor costs of certain building techniques. These
terms inform our understanding of the traditional Chinese way of categorization and knowledge
system of architecture and architectural elements.
Titled “Beside Yingzao,” this study takes the technical terms from Yingzao fashi to guide the
reader in investigating the various connections between architectural knowledge (technical and
non-technical) and its context from the perspective of the users rather than that of the builders.
That is, I explore how concepts of architecture worked and interacted with cosmology, political
theory, historiography, social division and collaboration in the imperial society. Built upon
previous studies, I incorporate the discussions about building methods, architectural
representation, and other relevant literary sources, in order to disrupt assumptions of both ideas
about and material manifestation of traditional Chinese architecture.
This thesis is written in an “index” format: all chapters are independent of each other and have
no pre-determined sequence. While each chapter focuses on a distinct aspect of premodern
Chinese architecture, they all illustrate how non-technical architectural knowledge was
constantly produced. The current study is organized into five chapters: gongshi, quzheng, yan,
jing, and dinggong. Further, these terms are not exhaustive and cannot be read as a
comprehensive analysis of premodern Chinese architecture. Complementing one another, these
terms bring architectural knowledge in dialogue with the natural environment as well as the
imperial Chinese sociopolitical environment.