Paifang

 

Paifang, also called Pailou, is an architectural form that is uniquely Chinese. It is an archway usually made of fine wood or stone, and painted or ornamented with glazed tiles. Calligraphers are usually requested to write moral inscriptions that are carved onto the middle beam.

These structures usually stand in downtown areas, or at the entrances of mausoleums, temples, bridges and parks.

Functions

The Paifang is erected in memory of virtuous people making it one form of memorial architecture, although it can also be built to function as mere decoration.

Cultural facts

In feudal times, the inscriptions carved on the beams of the Paifang reflected the people’s life aspirations.

Building the Paifang was an important folk ritual in feudal society. The event that marked the erecting of the Paifang was considered very solemn. Ceremonies expressing praise, honor, prayer, commemoration, or blessing were performed.

The completed structure is a perfect representation of the harmony between ancient Chinese architectural modeling art and sculpting art, both of which enjoy long histories and have great artistic value.

The structure also mirrors feudal ethics and traditional norms in ancient China. It acted as a physical manifestation of those ethics and norms. Various Paifangs, such as chastity Paifang (exclusively for widows), loyalty Paifang and filial piety Paifang, were set up to give honor to the deserving.

Paifang witnesses history. Many a Paifang was built to commemorate historical events and important historic figures, giving those structures great significance in the study of Chinese history.