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Bucket Arch

The bucket arch (Dougong in Chinese) is a system of brackets unique to traditional Chinese architecture, which is called Dou Gong in Chinese. These brackets, arranged like baskets of flowers, are set under the overhanging eaves, adding to the sumptuous magnificence of the buildings. Thanks to them the ancient Chinese edifices are so graceful with their upturned eaves and at the same time so well constructed and enduring.

The bucket arch is a structural member found between the top of a column and a cross beam. Each is formed of a double bow-shaped arm (Gong), which supports a block of wood (Dou) on each side. Fixed layer upon layer, the arrangements bear the load of the roof. Owing to hierarchical restrictions in feudal society, the Dou Gong structure can be found only in the most magnificent buildings such as palace and temple halls. The number of layers of these bracket structures also depended on the importance of the buildings.

The Dou Gong is measured in 'piles' which vary greatly in their complexity of structure, from those composed of 106 parts to the most simple made up of five. The numbers of 'tiers' also vary in each 'pile'. To take the double-eaved Taihedian, the building of the highest grade in the country, as an example. Its lower eaves are supported by Dou Gong brackets of 7 tiers, whereas the higher eaves, 9 tiers. The number of tiers, normally 9, 7, 5 or 3, also represents the extent to which the eaves protrude.

From the point of view of structural mechanics, the Dou Gong structure is highly resistant to earthquakes. It could hold the wood structure together even though brick walls would collapse in the same earthquake. This helped so many ancient buildings to stand intact for hundreds of years.

Note:
Taihedian, the largest extant Chinese timberwork hall, also known as the Hall of Supreme Harmony, located in the Forbidden City, Beijing. It was originally built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1695.

If you want to see this unique Chinese architectural structure, please book the Beijing tour packages which include the Forbidden City!

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