The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) left almost nothing behind, including the loss of the
Great Palace of Kublai Khan, which was placed in the country's new capital,
Beijing. Of the few remains, the Drum Tower and the Whit Pagoda in Beijing are both
from this rule.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) built many buildings that survive to the present, including
the Forbidden City in Beijing (begun in the 1400s), which is one of the most impressive
and densely built upon lands in the country. Every structure is monumental in detail,
technique, and often also in size as it contains nearly 9,000 rooms and was home
to the Emperors for years. This time period also represented a shift to heavily
painted buildings, which is impossible to miss in the Forbidden City. The Ming Dynasty
also built the Temple of Heaven (1500s; rebuilt in the 1890s), which is an all wood
circular temple built upon a square marble base; this building contains no nails
and is again heavily painted.
The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) built relatively little although they regularly updated
numerous buildings, including the Forbidden City. They also built the Emperor's
Summer Palace (1700s) in Beijing (although at the time it fell outside the city
walls). The Qing Dynasty was also well known for creating gardens a part of their
landscape and integrated it strongly with their architecture to work with buildings.
With the communist takeover in China following World War II
the architecture has changed dramatically, with the greatest change being the loss
of numerous historic pieces. Under Mao the government demanded that thousands of
pieces of architecture be destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The buildings
erected in their place have generally been simple factories or housings units that
are focused on efficiency and use over aesthetics.
However, for much of this time Hong Kong and Macau remained outside
Chinese power and their architecture better reflects their rulers than it
does China. Macau was ruled by Portugal and there are significant
indications of this past relationship. Hong Kong was ruled by the
British and grew into a massive modern city as it boasts some of the country's
finest modern and post-modern architecture with a modern skyline that competes with
New York and the best of the world.
A final note about the massive country's architecture is that the ethnic Chinese
were not the only rulers of every part of China as its borders
stand today. Numerous ethnic groups controlled various parts of the modern country
in the past and these regions reflect the local people and their architecture, not
China's. For this reason there are numerous alterations on Chinese architecture
and in some places a completely different style. However, these people rarely built
structures that have lasted or are noteworthy; the exception to this though is Tibet.
The Tibetans have a unique architecture not seen elsewhere in China and this is
best represented by their masterpiece, the Potala Palace (1649) in Lhasa.