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Traditional Chinese Houses 

Siheyuan is the traditional Chinese courtyard house which is noted for its clear hierarchic order. The typical siheyuan composition with four buildings around a courtyard traces back to the Han dynasty (B.C.206~A.D.220), and it is deemed to be the embodiment of the Confucian institution which has dominated the traditional Chinese society. In cities like Beijing, the siheyuans are built along with alleys called hutong.   

siheyuan area seen from the Bell Tower (zhonglou) in Beijing

alley (hutong) of a siheyuan block in Beijing

composition of siheyuan around a courtyard (Yuanzi)

main gate

viewed from the main gate to the front yard (qianyuan)*

second gate (chuihuamen)

main building (zhengfang) and a courtyard

hall of the main building, zutang

model of a new siheyuan site, Juer Hutong

new siheyuan at Juer Hutong

* In siheyuan, the view through gateways is blocked by the 'spirit walls (yingbi) - screens set just inside the entrance to obstruct the passage of evil spirits, which can only move in straight lines. (Nuttgens, Patrick, The Story of Architecture (Second ed.), Phaidon, 1997, p.68)