Yangshi Lei Archives, 1. Vertical Plan of the Circular Gate at Lüxin Shuwu Library


Shown here is the vertical elevation of a circular decorative gate at the Lȕxin Shuwu library (Library of faith keeping), situated in a corner area in the Yuanmingyuan (the Old Summer Palace), a vast complex of gardens and palaces constructed in the 18th−19th centuries in the northwest suburbs of Beijing. An imperial library often functioned as a place to collect books, give lectures, hold discussions, or administer civil examinations. It was also possible for the emperor to rest, read, work, or interview various people there. The circular-shaped shield or gate was one type of the decorative carved wooden panels in Chinese interior architecture. Such panels varied in shape, as seen in the “two-leg shield” with a support on each side; the “railing shield” that has a railing-like panel on each side; and the “down-to-floor shield” that extends from floor to ceiling. Erecting such shields or gates in a building enables connection of the different spaces but also defines separation. Such decorative panels also provide beauty. Abundant carved decorations cover the beams and columns, with a tracery of latticework decorating the interconnecting spaces. Only the space in the middle is reserved for such decorative gates, with geometric patterns through which people can walk. The shapes of these gates vary, and can be circular, square, hexagonal, or octagonal. The circular gate plan depicted here is called yuan guang zhao (circular light shield). The Yangshi Lei Archives contain architectural plans, models, and documents of the Lei family, who for some 200 years during the Qing Dynasty (1644−1911) were designers of imperial buildings, tombs, and gardens.

Last updated: November 25, 2014