China's Sacred Sites

Nan Shunxun, Author, Beverly Foit-Albert, Author . Himalayan Institute $49.95 (259p) ISBN 978-0-89389-262-3

This stunning volume, co-written by two architects, suggests that Chinese religious architecture is fundamentally different from Western religious architecture. In the West, builders inspired by the biblical mandate to take dominion over the earth have designed towns in which architectural elements visually assert ownership over the landscape. In China, by contrast, "the building merges with the site." The authors explain, in terms that any layman will grasp, central concepts of Chinese architecture, such as the void (expansive spaces found in temples and terraces, which echo the Buddhist focus on nothingness), and the integration of nature and architecture. Shun-xun and Foit-Albert explore over 50 short portraits of sacred sites in caves, on cliffs, in mountain villages, and on lakes, explaining the distinguishing natural and architectural features. Readers will visit the Sweet Dew Temple (the yang of the temple balances the yin of the cave in which it is nestled), and the town of Xituo, in which a famous street shaped like a ladder "opens communication through time and space." Lush color photographs make this book a feast for the eyes, not just the soul. Readers interested in architecture, feng shui or Eastern spirituality will enjoy visiting China with Shun-xun and Foit-Albert as their guides. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 09/25/2006
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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