Liang at Tsinghua University, 1950
20 April 1901|
|Died||9 January 1972
|Alma mater||Tsinghua University
University of Pennsylvania
|Political party||Communist Party of China|
Liang Sicheng (Chinese: 梁思成; 20 April 1901 – 9 January 1972) was a Chinese architect and scholar, often known as the father of modern Chinese architecture. His father, Liang Qichao, was one of the most prominent Chinese scholars of the early 20th century. His wife was the architect and poet Lin Huiyin. His younger brother, Liang Siyong, was one of China's first archaeologists.
Liang authored the first modern history on Chinese architecture, and he was the founder of the Architecture Department of Northeastern University in 1928 and Tsinghua University in 1946. He was the Chinese representative of the Design Board which designed the United Nations headquarters in New York City. He, along with wife Lin Huiyin, Mo Zongjiang, and Ji Yutang, discovered and analyzed the first and second oldest timber structures still standing in China, located at Nanchan Temple and Foguang Temple at Mount Wutai.
He is recognized as the “Father of Modern Chinese Architecture”. Princeton University, which awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 1947, issued a statement praising him as “a creative architect who has also been a teacher of architectural history, a pioneer in historical research and exploration in Chinese architecture and planning, and a leader in the restoration and preservation of the priceless monuments of his country.”
Liang Sicheng was born on 20 April 1901 in Tokyo, Japan, where his father, prolific scholar and reformist Liang Qichao, was in exile from China after the failed Hundred Days' Reform. During the waning years of the Qing Dynasty, China’s last Imperial dynasty, the empire endured a series of foreign invasions and vicious domestic struggles, beginning with the first Opium War in 1840. Foreign powers soon divided China into spheres of influence, while the weak and corrupt Qing Dynasty could do little to stop them. In 1898 the Guangxu Emperor, led by his circle of advisers, attempted to introduce drastic reforms to stem the decay and bring China onto the path to modernity. Liang Qichao, a well-educated and energetic man, was a leader of this movement. However, in the face of opposition from conservatives in the Qing court, the movement failed. The Empress Dowager Cixi, the emperor's adoptive mother and the power behind the throne, imprisoned the emperor, and executed many of the movement's leaders. Liang Qichao took refuge in Japan, where his eldest son was born.
After the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1911, Liang Qichao, Liang Sicheng's father, returned to China from his exile in Japan. He briefly served in the government of the newly established Republic, which was unfortunately taken over by a faction of warlords in Northern China (the "Beiyang" clique, meaning Northern Ocean). Liang Qichao quit his government post and initiated a social and literary movement to introduce modern, Western thought to Chinese society.
Liang Sicheng was educated by his father in this progressive environment. In 1915, Liang entered Tsinghua College, a preparatory school in Beijing. (This college later became Tsinghua University, now among the best universities in China.) In 1924, he and Lin went to University of Pennsylvania funded by Boxer Indemnity Scholarship to study architecture under Paul Cret. Three years later, Liang received his master's degree in architecture. He greatly benefited from his education in America, which also prepared him for his future career as a scholar and professor in China.
In 1928, Liang married Lin Huiyin (known in the United States as Phyllis Lin), who was an equally renowned scholar in modern China. She was recognized as an artist, architect and poet, admired by and friend with several famous scholars of her time, such as poet Xu Zhimo (whom she also had a brief relationship with), philosopher Jin Yuelin and economist Chen Daisun.
When the couple went back in 1928, they were invited by the Northeastern University in Shenyang. At that time Shenyang was under the control of Japanese troops, which was a big challenge to perform any professional practice. They went anyway, established the second School of Architecture in China, but also the first curriculum which took a western one (to be precise the curriculum from University of Pennsylvania) as its prototype. Their effort was interrupted by Japan’s occupation in the following year, but after 18 years, in 1946, the Liangs were again able to practice their professorship in Tsinghua University in Beijing. This time a more systematic and all-around curriculum was discreetly put forward, consisted of courses of fine arts, theory, history, science, and professional practice. This has become a reference for any other school of architecture later developed in China. This improvement also reflected the change of architectural style from the Beaux-Arts tradition to the modernist Bauhaus style since the 1920s.
In 1930, Liang and his colleague, Zhang Rui, won an award of the physical plan of Tianjin. This plan incorporates the contemporary American techniques in zoning, public administration, government finance and municipal engineering. Liang's involvement in city planning was further inspired by Clarence Stein, the chairman of the Regional Planning Association of America. They met in Beiping in 1936 during Stein's trip to Asia. Liang and Stein became good friends and in Liang's visit to the US in 1946/7, Liang stayed in Stein's apartment when he came to New York City. Stein played an instrumental role in the establishment of the architectural and planning program at Tsinghua University.
In 1931, Liang became a member of a newly developed organization in Beijing called the Society for Research in Chinese Architecture. He felt a strong impulse to study Chinese traditional architecture and that it was his responsibility to interpret and convey its building methods. It was not an easy task. Since the carpenters were generally illiterate, methods of construction were usually conveyed orally from master to apprentice, and were regarded as secrets within every craft. In spite of these difficulties, Liang started his research by "decoding" classical manuals and consulting the workmen who have the traditional skills.
From the start of his new career as a historian, Liang was determined to search and discover what he termed the “Grammar of Chinese architecture”. He recognized that throughout China’s history the timber-frame had been the fundamental form of construction. He also realized that it was far from enough just to sit in his office day and night engaged in the books. He had to get out searching for the surviving buildings in order to verify his assumptions. His first travel was in April 1932. In the following years he and his colleagues successively discovered some survived traditional buildings, including: the Foguang Temple (857), the Temple of Solitary Joy (984), the Yingzhou Pagoda (1056), Zhaozhou Bridge (589-617), and many others. Because of their effort, these buildings managed to survive.
Following the Mukden Incident in 1931, Imperial Japan began establishing strangleholds throughout China's north, ultimately culminating into a full-scale war generally known as War of Resistance (a culmination of the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War 2, 1937–45), which forced Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin to cut short their cultural restoration work in Beijing, and flee southward along with faculty and materials of the Architectural Department of Northeastern University. Liang and Lin along with their children and their university continued their studies and research work in temporary settlements in the cities of Tianjin, Kunming, and finally in Lizhuang. During the later stages of WWII, the Americans began heavy bombing of the Japanese homeland. Liang, whose brother-in-law Lin Heng served as a fighter pilot in the air force and died in the air war against Japan, recommended that the Americans military authorities to spare the ancient Japanese cities of Kyoto and Nara: "architecture is the epitome of society and the symbol of the people. But it does not belong to one people, for it is the crystallization of the entire human race. Nara's Toshodaiji Temple is the world's oldest wood-structure building. Once destroyed, it is irrecoverable." The U.S. military accepted Liang’s proposal. As a result, even though Japan was heavily bombed, Nara remained intact with its original scenery unaffected by the war.
After the war, Liang was invited to establish the architectural and urban planning programs at Tsinghua University. In 1946, he went to Yale University as a visiting fellow and served as the Chinese representative in the design of the United Nations Headquarters Building. In 1947, Liang received an honorary doctoral degree from Princeton University. He visited major architectural programs and influential architects in order to develop a model program at Tsinghua before returning China.
To spread and share his understandings and appreciation of Chinese architecture, and most importantly, to help save its diminishing building technologies, Liang published his first book, Qing Structural Regulations in 1934. The book was on the study of the methods and rules of Qing architecture with the 1734 Qing Architecture Regulation and several other ancient manuals as the textbook, the carpenters as teachers, and the Forbidden City in Beijing as teaching material. Since its publication, for more than seven decades, this book has become a standard textbook for anyone who wants to understand the essence of ancient Chinese architecture. Liang considered the study of Qing Structural Regulation as a stepping stone to the much more daunting task of studying the Song dynasty Yingzao Fashi (Treatise on Architectural Methods), due to the large number of specialist terms used in that manual differing substantially from the Qing dynasty architectural terminology.
Liang's study of Yingzao Fashi spanned more than two decades, from 1940 to 1963, and the first draft of his Annotated Yingzao Fashi was completed in 1963. However, due to the eruption of the Cultural Revolution in China, the publication of this work was cut short. Liang's Annotated Yingzao Fashi was published posthumously by Tsinghua University Architecture Department's Yingzao Fashi Study Group in 1980. (The text occupies all of Volume 7 in his ten-volume Collected Works).
Liang considered the Yingzao Fashi and Qing Structural Regulations as "two grammar books of Chinese architecture." He wrote, "both government manuals, they are of the greatest importance for the study of the technological aspects of Chinese architecture."
Another book, History of Chinese Architecture, was "the first thing of its kind." In his words, this book was "an attempt to organize the materials collected by myself and other members of the Institute during the past twelve years." He had divided the previous 3,500 years into six architectural periods, defined each period by references to historical and literary citations, described existing monuments of each period, and finally analyzed the architecture of each period as evidenced from a combination of painstaking library and field research. All of these books became the platform for later scholars to explore the principles and evolution of Chinese architecture, and are still considered classics today.
Liang's posthumous manuscript "Chinese Architecture, A Pictorial History", written in English, edited by Wilma Fairbank (费慰梅) was published by MIT Press in 1984 and won ForeWord Magazine's Architecture "Book of the Year" Award".
Liang's first experience participating in the restoration of an old building was in 1932, when he was asked to restore a two-story imperial library, the Wenyuan Chamber, erected in 1776 in the southwestern part of the Forbidden City. In 1935, he was selected as the advisor of the restoration project of the Temple of Confucius. In his proposal he expressed his attitude toward historic buildings. He said, "in the face of all the old buildings dating from different periods of time, it is our responsibility to protect and restore them. Before starting our work, we need to carefully look into its background, to fix it in a rational way in order to extend its existence for as long as possible."
- Monument of Wang Guowei, 1929
- Hall and Library in Jilin Provincial University, 1930
- Geological Building and female dormitory Peking University,1934-1935
In around 1950, when he and his wife were both appointed to the groups designing the new national emblem. They urged that the emblem should have Chinese characteristics, not a hammer and sickle. They succeeded and in the end a representation of the façade of the Tiananmen in red and gold became the emblem that is still used today.In 1951, they were commissioned to design the Monument to the People's Heroes, which was to be erected in the center of the Tiananmen Square. Liang's advice that it should resemble the stone memorial stele universally found throughout China swayed the design group.
The National Style
When Liang was later given the responsibility to develop a national style of architecture by the Communist Party of China, his intention was to pass on the essence of Chinese architecture. This specific "essence", was considered to be the "large roof", the temple-style concave curved roofs and overhanging eaves to denote their Chinese origin. Though he was severely criticized for this during political campaigns, a wave of the National Style had already spread out and even continued to be influential after one or two decades. Famous examples include the China Fine Arts Gallery (1959), the National Library of China (1987), and Beijing west railway station (1996), which are all typical of their large roofs.
Urban planning of Beijing
Liang's biggest ambition was to preserve old Beijing, which had served as the capital city of the Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, in its entirety. Under the Communist government, he was named Vice-Director of the Beijing City Planning Commission. In his early recommendations to transform Beijing into the new national capital, he insisted that the city should be a political and cultural center, not an industrial zone. He later put forward a proposal that a new administrative center for government buildings with a north-south axis be established west of the Forbidden City, a significant distance from the ancient Inner City. In 1950, after he was committed as the vice director in Beijing City Planning Committee. Liang and another planner Chen Zhanxiang worked together for the new government and eventually submitted a report “Suggestions on the location of central government district”, which is referred as the "Liang-Chen Proposal" (梁陈方案) in the Chinese architectural field. In this proposal, Liang Sicheng and Chen Zhanxiang proposed different locations for the city center to the west of the Forbidden City, east of Gongzhufen and west of Yuetan. They listed their arguments in the "Suggestions on the location of central government district", which could also be seen in the letter Liang wrote to the Prime Minister of China Zhou Enlai at that time. Briefly, they demonstrated 5 key focus aspects on the new planning proposal of Beijing
They proposed sub-centered districts with different functions and connected to these districts with green belt areas among them, which they believed would reduce the distance to work and leave more urban space to recreation activities. Apart from the idea of moving the central offices outside from the Ming Dynasty old town, the other main idea is to set up a new axis on the south-north direction on the west side of the old city of Beijing. On the northern part are the central government office and the southern leave to the business offices area. In the original master plan before the Communist Party of China government took over Beijing, the western urban region of Beijing had already been developed as an important sub-center to the west of the old city. There were already good foundations and preparation work had been done already by the previous government, such as requisition of land and replacement of the local residents. What's more, this region can provide better green space to the citizens naturally since it next to the Babaoshan. Last, they listed every item on the budget to prove their proposal is economically practical.
2. Residential area and working area connection
The new center can create a better connection between the living and working area. Since there is not enough space for residential space in the old city anyway (130000-190000 houses), the only suitable location to new development for a new residential area is new government center, which will be combined with residential area serve for their staff. It's a more smart and energy efficient solution to mix the living and working space together, considering the distance from the working place and living place. Otherwise the government staffs (at least about 30,000 people) will have to travel on the average distance of 7.5 km everyday just to get to work from home in the same hour.
3. Balance the development of whole city
Inner city of Beijing needs to be redeveloped in a more balanced and organized way. One thing is an over develops inner city will bring conflicts between inner city and suburbs and draw much population into the center of Beijing which was already considered to be crowded. Another is too much population density will lead to many urban problems such as transportation, urban slum, and garbage management etc., therefore the population density inner city should be reduced graduate. During 19 century, there are many European cities that had overdeveloped in the city center causing much trouble and costing large amounts of money to make it right afterwards.
4. Control the traffic capacity within the city
Unbalanced development in the city will lead to unbalanced transportation. Transportation will focus on the several major roads in Beijing, which will bring the unbearable situation for such a huge city. If take Chang'an street as example, “A big event in the Tiananmen Square could easily paralyze the traffic of the city”. The city should increase the efficiency of the traffic by reducing the capacity on traffic, not the other way around. The city could plan a new structure to solve the traffic problem and reduce the traffic capacity from the source. Residents in Beijing in the future will not have to take hours to workplace since they live close to where they work. It is considered to be a time, money, energy saving solution to find a new center for the city.
5. Protect the architecture heritage sites
Beijing is a city full with culture and architecture heritage. Not only the Forbidden City, but also many Palaces, Villas, and traditional courtyards of the royal families and officers are all the precious fortune for the entire human being. Those are all important heritage site and need to be protected very carefully. For the urban structure point of view, Beijing has the unique Hutong structure which connects the various small valleys into major roads. All of those heritage sites are from different periods in the history, and make Beijing a unique city itself. Those heritage sites need to be appreciated and opened to the public, turning them into parks and sounded by public spaces. The new constructions with new materials and new technologies are not adaptable in the context of old Beijing which is composed by mainly 2-3 stories wooden buildings, perhaps more suitable in the new city structure.
He advocated that the city walls and gates be preserved, and that the roadways around the ancient city be built with chicanes, so as to slow motor vehicle traffic to help insure additional safety of ancient structures. He even published an article entitled "Beijing: a Masterpiece of Urban Planning", hoping to win the support of the general public. Unfortunately the Liang-Chen proposal was not accepted by Beijing. Despite his best efforts, most of Beijing's ancient gates and city walls were torn down. The original footprint of the Old Beijing City Wall have become largely built-over with an inner-city highway known as the 2nd Ring Road, with a few of the original ancient city gates still standing. There were two major reasons that the proposal failed. First, opponents to the "Liang-Chen Proposal" argued that there were not enough funds to build another center in Beijing, however Liang and Chen had already demonstrated it would cost more to demolish and resettle the original residents. In October 1956, Beijing's Party Secretory Peng Zhen said on the standing committee meeting: it's difficult to build inside the urban area of Beijing because of the relocated householders, if only we build outside the urban area, things would be much easier. The second was more political, as Soviet consultants saw the Beijing City Wall as an obstacle to the modern industry, and believed that the capital of China should be the industrialization model of all Chinese cities. The Soviets even discussed tearing down the wall of the Forbidden City in the 1958 to achieve this.
- Protecting Beijing city wall
The Beijing city wall was a series of fortifications built between the early 15th century and 1553.Beijing was China's capital during the last three Chinese imperial dynasties (the Yuan, Ming, and Qing). It was also secondary capital to two northern dynasties (the Liao and Jin), and is therefore often referred to as an ancient capital of five Dynasties in Chinese history.Beijing city wall is consistently built and resorted from the Yuan Dynasty's capital city Dadu was founded. This wall stood for nearly 530 years until 1965 it was removed to allow construction of the 2nd Ring Road Beijing Subway. Although Liang had already tried every possible efforts to avoid the destruction, only one part of the wall is extant, in the southeast, just south of Beijing Railway Station. In fact,the conservation for the Beijing city wall is a major consideration for them to propose a new center outside the city wall. Liang-Chen had their conservation plans for the valuable Chinese city wall left from the Ming Dynasty of Beijing. Liang-Chen proposed to build a ring park system around the city wall, proclaiming that "this green system is not only a recreation area for the citizens, but also a unique urban space in the world.". The wall would work as a buffer zone for the future urbanization in Beijing, as well as civic park space for leisure and recreation. The green belt around the city wall, the upper wall space, and the lower waterfront space beside the moat, could become a compact system which serves the citizens' urban life. However, this idea was not applied in Beijing but almost fully adopted 30 years later by Xi'an which is another city surrounded by a Ming Dynasty city wall. Starting from 1980s, the Xi'an city municipality initiated a "Wall Ring Park" project for the Xi'an city wall. This idea is also applied in other city where they have city wall as heritage site, such as Nanjing, Xiangyang etc.
- Herbert George Wells,The Outline of History, transl. Liang Sicheng, 1932,(《世界史纲》)
- Qing Structural Regulations,1934,Society for Research in Chinese Architecture(《清式营造则例》)
- History of Chinese Sculpture, 1985,China Architecture & Building Press(《中国雕塑史》)
- Architecture History in China,1998, ISBN 978-7-5306-4168-2(《中国建筑史》)
- A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF CHINESE ARCHITECTURE: A Study of the Development of its Structural System and the Evolution of its Types, Liang Ssu-Ch'eng; edited by Wilma Fairbank MIT Press, 1984,ISBN 978-0-262-12103-3
- Complete Works of Liang Sicheng,2004,China Architecture & Building Press(《梁思成全集》第一卷至第十卷)
- A Pictorial illusion on principle in Qing Architecture,1981,ISBN 978-7-302-13229-5,Tsinghua University Press(《清工部工程做法则例图解》)
- Footnote on 营造法式,1981,China Architecture & Building Press(《营造法式注释》)
Repression, respite, and death during the Cultural Revolution
Despite Liang's contribution to designing national emblem of the People's Republic of China and helping with the reconstruction of Beijing, his theory of architecture, which emphasized the greatness of Chinese building tradition, was severely and publicly criticized; Liang was accused of "thinking that the Communist Party did not understand architecture", and that his affinity to traditional designs was a "phenomenon of waste in construction". In 1955, both Liang and his wife Lin Huiyin, already in precarious health, were both dealt a great emotional and spiritual blow by the barrage of criticisms for their efforts to revive China's traditional architecture, that their health both worsened. His wife, in particular, had succumbed to her long ailment in April 1955 after beaten their doctor's prognosis on the estimated time left in her life with tuberculosis by several years. In 1956 Liang was forced to self-criticize and admit that he had made "mistakes"; which were deemed by the authorities as "academic mistakes", rather than "political mistakes". Although the open criticisms against Liang and his beleaguered ideals for a new China with a "national character" had already stopped, the new focus of open criticisms and calls for self-criticism had suddenly shifted against the academics of philosophy and social sciences represented by such scholars as Hu Shi, Hu Feng, and Liang Shuming.
A period of respite for Liang Sicheng came few years later when his ideas and theories about traditional designs for modern China gained resurgence, and was once again widely published. He regained his position as Director of Architecture at Tsinghua University, conducted more surveys on ancient architectural structures, and completed his decades-long work, the Annotated Yingzao Fashi. He remarried to a fellow Tsinghua faculty member Lin Zhu in 1962. However, during the Cultural Revolution, Liang Sicheng was again persecuted as "an authority of counter-revolutionary scholarship", and all his co-workers at Tsinghua University were sent off to the rural regions as part of the "Down to the Countryside Movement". Liang's wife Lin Zhu helped her husband secretly hide the notes and manuscripts, including the Annotated Yingzao Fashi (to be published posthumously over a decade later), to avoid possible confiscation or destruction by the Red Guards. He died in Beijing in 1972, three years before the Cultural Revolution officially ended. In 1973, Lin Zhu recovered and arranged her husband's papers for publication under the titles of A Complete Collection of Liang Sicheng's Works; and continued authoring the works Bewildered Thoughts of a Great Master, Architect Liang Sicheng, and History and Society for the Study of Chinese Architecture. He was subsequently rehabilitated posthumously.
- Liang reported his birth year as 1902 at University of Pennsylvania and to the United Nations Design Board.
- Sidney Wong. "The Planning Connection between Clarence Stein and Liang Sicheng in Republican China," Planning Perspectives, 2013
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- 梁思成の胸像建立へ - 戦火から文化財守った古都の"恩人" (in Japanese).
- Preface to Annotated Yingzao Fashi, Liang Sicheng, Aug, 1963, Collected Works of Liang Sicheng, Vol 7 Yingzao Fashi, p16 ISBN 7-112-04431-6
- Liang Ssu Cheng: Chinese Architecture, A Pictorial History, p14 ISBN 0-486-43999-2
- Liang Sicheng. Zhong guo jian zhu shi. Baihua Literature and Art Publishing House. 2005
- Liang Ssu-Cheng CHINESE ARCHITECTURE, A PICTORIAL HISTORY
- 窦忠如 (January 2012). "梁思成年谱". 梁思成传 (in 简体中文) (2版 ed.). 天津: 百花文艺. pp. 336～339. ISBN 978-7-5306-6041-6.
- Full title: "Suggestions on the location of central government district"《关于中央人民政府行政中心区位置的建议》,Liang Sicheng, Chen Zhanxiang
- 林洙 (2004). 梁思成林徽因与我 (in Chinese). 清华大学出版社有限公司. p. 205. ISBN 978-7-302-08676-5.
- Liang, Sicheng; Chen, Zhanxiang (1950). Suggestions on the location of central government district《关于中央人民政府行政中心区位置的建议》.
- 梁思成. "关于北京城墙存废问题的讨论". 新建设. 2 (6).
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- Ruan, Xing (阮昕) 2002 “Accidental affinities: American Beaux-Arts in Twentieth-Century Chinese architectural education and practice,” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 61(1) (March): 30-47.
- Ch 9, “Chinese Friends,” John King Fairbank. Chinabound: A Fifty-Year Memoir. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. ISBN 0060390050, pp. 104–113.
- Fairbank, Wilma. Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China's Architectural Past. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1994. ISBN 0-8122-3278-X
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- Sennott, R. Stephen Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture. page 767-6. 2004. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57958-433-7.
- Jun Wang (January 3, 2011), Beijing Record: A Physical and Political History of Planning Modern Beijing, World Scientific Publishing Company, ISBN 978-9814295727
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- Wong, Sidney. "Background and Influences on Liang Sicheng’s Planning Thoughts" Planning and Development 27(1): 62-76, 2012.
- Wong, Sidney. "The Planning Connection between Clarence Stein and Liang Sicheng in Republican China" Planning Perspectives 28(3): 421-439, 2013.
- Wong, Sidney. "Searching for a Modern, Humanistic Planning Model in China - The Planning Ideas of Liang Sicheng (1930-1952)" Journal of Architecture and Planning Research 32(4): 324–345. 2015.