4.1. Hakka Traditional Buildings
The Hakka people who moved to Guangdong gathered at the junction of North Mountain and South Mountain. Their survival and development were based on adhering to their original cultural characteristics while integrating the advantages of the local indigenous culture into their living customs, language, totem worship, residential buildings and into other material and spiritual aspects of their culture. As one of the districts with the most prominent Hakka ethnic features, the Meizhou area is rich in typical traditional cultural elements of Hakka [18
]. The Dragon House, as shown in Figure 11
, which exhibits the regional characteristics of the Hakka building, is the most popular architectural style among the Hakka buildings in northern Guangdong. The distribution of the Dragon House is centred on the Hakka-inhabited hinterland in Xingning, Meixian, Guangdong. It has also spread into the surrounding areas, including the Dong River Basin and the Pearl River Estuary [19
]. This building style displays good structural characteristics in harmony with the laws of nature and is amenable to good sustainable development [21
The overall layout of the dragon house is a closed shape (Figure 12
). In terms of overall shape, the dragon house is similar to a tai chi figure. The main body of the dragon house is the main room, which is an extension of the two halls–two horizontals and the three halls–two horizontals. At the back of the main room, a half-moon-shaped enclosure connects with the tops of the horizontal rooms on both sides. The main house is located in the middle, and there are two halls with two horizontal rooms surrounded by one dragon, three halls with two horizontal rooms surrounded by one dragon, four horizontal rooms surrounded by one or two dragons, and six horizontal rooms surrounded by three dragons. Certain such structures are surrounded by as many as five dragons. Most Dragon houses are constructed near mountains. The entire building spans the space between the hillside and the flat ground, forming a double-arch curve with a low front and a high back and with two sides of low and medium height. Buildings are stacked on top of one another, as viewed looking forward from the highest point behind the house; it is an open landscape [24
In terms of construction materials, the foundation is made of stone. The high platform is built to bear the weight of the upper wall and isolate the damp air. The walls are almost rammed earth walls adapted to the local weather that is warm in winter and cool in summer. They are durable and solid, economical and environmentally friendly. Generally, the roof is tiled, which is conducive to drainage. The structure is mainly the wooden frame, and the wall is directly used to bear the load. It has the characteristics of simple craftsmanship, good seismic performance and clear structural logic. The Dragon House shaped the basic pattern of the patio-center and the unit type, and the halls are connected by the patio. The architecture with good space permeability and meets the requirements of ventilation and lighting (Figure 11
). As shown in Figure 13
, the interior of the Dragon House is bright and spacious. The relationship between humans and nature is well coordinated in the dense living environment.
Judging from the basic shape of the dragon house, the open-air section between the main body of the building and the walls is a semicircular “flower tire”. The shape is like a pregnant woman’s slightly bulging belly, which corresponds to the “five-party dragon god” that symbolizes the birth gate of women under the lower abdomen, indicating that the dragon and the phoenix are born, and the descendants will be long-lived. In addition to the basic functions of irrigation and fire safety, the pond in front of the house has the special meaning of gathering wealth [25
]. The ancestral hall is the heart of the Dragon House. In addition to its function as a space in which to worship ancestors, it serves for welcoming relatives and banqueting with guests. It can also serve as a place for the tribe to pass on traditional beliefs and customs and for spiritual belief and emotional sustenance [26
In terms of interior decoration and cultural connotation, woodcarvings and paintings complement one another, and the decorative components can be quite exquisite. Sculptural elements decorated with relief, openwork or a combination of techniques are mostly used in beams, columns, doors, windows and railings but also in other places. The content of the carving and painting is elaborate, and the themes are mainly myths and customs, flowers, animals, and figures. Realistic and decorative techniques are used to express various objects and reflect different meanings. The latter include children, blessings, wealth, good luck, fertility and prosperity, and other auspicious symbols. The main shapes are bats (a homonym for blessing), dragons, phoenixes, pomegranates (meaning children) and several others. On the beams, words and phrases appear, such as “hundreds of sons and grandchildren” or “peace and wealth”. The words are painted with pigments made of natural plants or minerals, with bright and firm colouring [28
]. Such decoration reflects the Hakka people’s pursuit and yearning for a better life while exhibiting the valuable inheritance of the local culture and its compatibility with the traditional culture of the Central Plains and foreign cultures.
4.2. Traditional Cantonese Buildings
The Cantonese area is the Pearl River Delta area around Guangzhou in the central part of Guangdong Province. The Cantonese people who live here are characterized by speaking the Cantonese dialect, and their language, religion, customs, moral values, social organization, and economic characteristics are similar. The Cantonese area has the largest area and the largest population in Guangdong Province. Since ancient times, it has been the most developed economy and the most important representative area of Lingnan culture. “Cantonese architecture” generally refers to the traditional architecture in the area in which the Han people live, and the style is an important branch of Lingnan architecture. While retaining its own regional characteristics, it constantly absorbs and digests foreign cultural influences. The fusion of architectural culture and decorative techniques expresses the compatibility and diversity of Cantonese architecture based on practicality and commerce. The layout of Cantonese buildings is in line with Chinese symmetrical beauty, and their exquisite decoration makes their appearance sophisticated, elegant and solemn.
Like the Lingnan people, Cantonese buildings are open and innovative, inclusive, enthusiastic and cheerful, pragmatic and truth-seeking. Chen Clan Temple (1888–1894) in Guangzhou, also known as Chen Clan Academy, was constructed during the late Qing Dynasty. Because of its prominent regional cultural characteristics and aesthetic orientation, it is referred to as the “Cantonese Architecture Model”. It is famous for its large scale and gorgeous decoration. The temple is a relatively well-preserved and representative example of folk architecture of the late Qing Dynasty in Guangdong. As shown in Figure 14
, the main body of Chen Clan Temple follows the traditional layout of axisymmetric and clear primary and secondary elements of ritual architecture [29
], and in the comb-style layout, the Lingnan characteristics are interspersed. Most of the temple buildings are single-story wooden structures. Lingnan is in the subtropical and tropical region with short winter and long summer, and the climate here is hot. The buildings in the Lingnan region are usually single-story wooden structures, so the shapes in the architecture are transparent and open, simple and light. The walls can be able to reduce fire risk, and also called the “horsehead wall” in the Chen Clan Temple. Besides, the outer walls made of blue bricks are high, and the interior rooms and halls are mostly connected by corridors. Most of the ventilation structures are shown in Figure 15
. Removable lattice fans are used to ventilate the hall. In this way, halls, patios, and corridors are integrated together to form a large space that is outside, closed and open inside. This is the inheritance and development of the traditional features of a Lingnan architectural plane and space layout. It is beneficial for creating a good enclosure for the courtyard space. Furthermore, corridors are usually arranged between two buildings or two viewing points and become an important means of spatial connection and space division. It not only provides a sheltered place for keeping the interior shady all year round but also as the traffic connection. In short, corridors play an important organizational role in the arrangement and viewing of the landscape.
The solemn and grand architecture is integrated with eye-catching and elegant artistic elements, and the attention to detail calmly provides a bright yet subtle visual experience. All of the exquisitely elaborated decorations, such as roof ridges, cornices, doors and windows, patios, walls, steps, corridors, courtyards and interior furnishings, reflect the pursuit of perfection in details (Figure 14
). Chen Clan Temple represents a collection of various artistic expressions and absorbed foreign classic decorative methods that integrate various techniques, such as stone carving, wood carving, brick carving, grey sculpture, pottery sculpture, copper and iron casting, and colour painting, all of which are commonly known as the Seven Wonders of Chen Clan Temple (Figure 16
]. Woodcarving represents a large proportion of the architectural decoration of Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, which can be described as “no wood without carving”. All the wooden structures in the building use the two techniques of relief and engraving. The artistry completely preserves the folk culture of the Lingnan area at the time the building was erected and condensed the surpassing wisdom and rich experience of craftsmen from ancient times to the present. For example, let us describe the twelve large double-sided engraved screens at the rear of the temple’s Juxian Hall, whose wood texture is on full display. The composition is strict and orderly, and skilled and vigorous carving is used to create vivid characters and complex scenes. The application of the scatter perspective technique enables plane woodcarving to evoke a three-dimensional sense of hierarchy. Another example is the niche cover of the three-entry lobby—another masterpiece of meticulous carving. It is tall and luxurious, and carved with a great number of dragons and phoenixes, figures and flowers; it is the largest Qing Dynasty woodcarving remaining in Guangdong [31
]. In front of Chen Clan Temple is a pair of stone lions with peaceful demeanours (Figure 17
). The male lion is stepping on a stone ball and looks proudly into the distance, symbolizing power. The lioness holds a cub in her paws, symbolizing the prosperity of the family. The smooth stone ball in the mouth of the male lion was carved whole using the engraving technique. It can rotate freely without falling out of the lion’s mouth. The four sides of the stone base under the lions are engraved with auspicious patterns, such as “Carp Leaping over the Dragon Gate”, “Danfeng Chaoyang” and “Lion Playing Ball”, with high relief techniques.
Grey sculpture is a unique outdoor decorative art found in Guangdong buildings. Its design is highly particular and has distinct layers and elaborate symbolism. It is mainly distributed on the roof and roof ridge (Figure 18
). Because of its special decorative aspects, the production is relatively difficult. Thus, the grey sculpture of Chen Clan Temple represents the highest level of folk grey sculpture technology [32
]. On the ridge of the nine halls of Chen Clan Temple, there are eleven pottery sculpture ridges. Each has a double-sided figure and flower ridge, tall in extent, rich in layers and complicated in decoration, with numerous characters and extensive scenes. It is a representative work of ceramic ridge art of the late Qing Dynasty. The ridge decoration is broadly divided into left, middle and right sections according to the decorative theme. A middle section is a group of large-scale theme opera scenes, the left and right sides are subtheme opera scenes, and the left and right ends are large figures or round dragon and phoenix sculptures.
Cantonese buildings also reflect an open attitude towards certain foreign architectural forms and elements. They neither refuse to cultivate the native tradition nor blindly reject foreign architecture. However, through rational examination, Cantonese architecture boldly absorbs and learns from both sources. The artistic features noted above are in fact inspired by Baroque architecture [33
]. For example, the corridor of Chen Clan Temple changes the traditional column style and adopts Western-style cast-iron columns. To highlight the theme pattern of the railings and reduce the cumbersome feeling of the platform stone railings, the stone balcony railings in front of Juxian Hall are made of cast-iron flowers. Sixteen exquisite and carefully designed cast-iron railings are carved into patterns such as “Dragon and Phoenix, Jade Book, Kirin”, “Nine Fish Diagram”, “Three Sheep Qitai”, and “Cloud Dragon Spitting Pearl”. The grey–white and elegant stone railings and the dark-toned cast-iron railings complement one another, contrasting harmoniously in terms of their prominent themes, which enhances the decorative effect of the railings and has a poetic and picturesque beauty. This achievement established a precedent for the combination of stone and iron carvings in Guangdong.
4.3. Chaoshan Traditional Buildings
The Chaoshan area is located in the eastern coastal area of Guangdong, surrounded by mountains on three sides and facing the sea on the other, with a unique geographical location. Traditional Chaozhou culture was developed through the integration of three main elements: the ancient “Baiyue” indigenous culture, the Central Plains Han culture brought by immigrants from the southern Central Plains ruled by past dynasties, and the culture born in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties and extending to the present “Spirit of the Sea” [35
]. People who live by the sea must be more adaptable than inland farmers, and whether for navigation or commercial purposes, fishermen require colourful emblems. Therefore, Chaoshan buildings tend to use random, dynamic and luxurious colour decorations [36
], which introduce the gorgeous Nanyang style into Chaozhou folk decoration.
There are many styles of traditional buildings with symbolic names in Chaoshan, such as Sima Trailer, Four Points Gold, and Xiahu. As an example, we describe Four Points Gold, a unique residential building with Chaoshan characteristics (Figure 19
). The layout is shown in Figure 20
. The building is named for a room shaped like the word “gold” on each of its four corners. In the old days, only wealthy families could build such structures. The architectural pattern of Four Points Gold resembles that of the courtyard building in Beijing. There are generally fences around the walls, and wells are drilled inside the fences. There are “wall bellies” on the left and right sides of the gate. Passing through the gate, one enters the front hall. The rooms on both sides are referred to as the front room. Across from the gate is an empty patio. There is a room on each side, one of which serves as a kitchen and the other as a firewood room. Behind the patio is the back hall, also known as the hall, which is occupied by the earth force, important for ancestor worship. There is a large room on each side, which are the bedrooms for the elders [37
]. The windows of a Four Points Gold building generally do not open to the outside but, rather, only to the inner courtyard. This is because “wealth” accumulates in the patio from the gate or the sky and then “sucks” into the house through the doors and windows of each room. If a window opens to the outside, the house leaks air, and the “wealth” leaks out [38
]. Four Points Gold buildings are connected and symmetrical, while the courtyard in the atrium is small and square. The layout is based on the old system, established prior to the Song Dynasty, with the gate centred in the middle and south on the central axis. The Four Points Gold building of Chaoshan retains the shape and layout of the Quadrangle in the Song Dynasty, which is very similar to the Quadrangle appearing in Wang Wei’s Figures of Wangchuan of the Tang Dynasty [37
In the early days, the Chaoshan people mixed the clay sandy soil with water, stirred it to soften and added straw as rebar. Pouring the wet soil into a mold to pressurize and harden, and drying it to make “Thokakchhu” (Figure 21
). The Thokakchhu Wall is poor in terms of integrity and durability, so few of them remain. Since then, the brick walls became popular in the Central Plains, and gradually evolved their own building systems. Because there are many people but less land in Chaoshan, land resources are extremely valuable while burning bricks require good soil. To avoid competing with agriculture for land, the Chaoshan people utilize grey sands, shell ash and shell to make rammed earth walls (Figure 22
). Thus, the brick materials have not been widely adopted in traditional Chaoshan architectures. Calcining shells to obtain the shell ash with high strength and cohesive force and can resist the erosion of sea wind. During the process of repeatedly mixing and stirring, shell ash can be added in a certain proportion or mixed with brown sugar water and rice pulp. After curing, the mixture is layered into the mold for compaction. The quality of the rammed earth wall depends on the content of water. If the water is less, the viscosity of the rammed earth wall is poor, and it is difficult to ram. The rammed earth wall with much moisture is easy to ram, but it is also easy to shrink and crack after drying. The experienced craftsmen built rammed earth walls made of shell lime sand with high strength and quality. Thus, the traditional Chaoshan buildings are still intact after hundreds of years of wind and rain.
The architectural decoration of Chaoshan residential buildings is extensive and profound, and there are many types. The most prominent and most important features are the gatehouse, roof and hall. Many decorative techniques are used, including wood carving, stone carving, and murals. The most popular and unique technique is Chaoshan carving. Most of the decorations on the girders are paintings, and the themes are highly diverse. There are a variety of painting techniques, including using ink and black lacquers. It is precisely because of these special techniques that Chaoshan buildings are resplendent [39
]. The interior decoration also includes wood and stone carvings and other decorations, adding to the beauty of the buildings.
The climate in the Chaoshan area is hot and rainy (Figure 23
). The annual average temperature is 23.2 °C, and the annual rainfall is approximately 1300 to 2000 mm, mostly concentrated from April to September. The salt content of the air in the region is high due to its proximity to the sea. Under such climatic conditions, decorations (such as the grey sculptures and paintings on the roofs of early buildings) are easily damaged, and craftsmen must focus on corrosion resistance and sturdiness. Seeking to prevent the roof decoration from being eroded by wind, rain and salt, artists were inspired by Jiaozhi pottery, which originated south of Five Mountains, Guangdong. They began to investigate and develop decorative components similar to Jiaozhi pottery, creating the porcelain inlay process, which continues to be used (Figure 24
). For example, there are five different signs representing gold, wood, water, fire and soil on the ridge end of the gable. The five-star ridge decoration, gable, eaves, and other roof sections are all inlaid with porcelain. Inlaid porcelain is a type of folk art and a craft handed down from Chaoshan. The term refers to the use of variously coloured porcelain pieces inlaid in the form of various three-dimensional images on the main roof parts, such as the gables and eaves. These images include flowers and plants, birds and animals, insects and fish, as well as other natural imagery. The shapes are very expressive, and some mix the imaginary with the genuine. The inlaid porcelain not only resists erosion by wind, rain and salt but also becomes even more splendid after being exposed to rain and the sun because of the characteristics of the ceramic material [40
]. The craft of inlaying porcelain was adapted to the climate characteristics of Chaoshan without losing decorative value. Therefore, it remains widely used in Chaoshan architecture and was included in the national intangible cultural heritage list in 2011.