Looking back to Quiddity Between Traditional Chinese Architecture and Ancestor Worship


Chinese ancestor worship




Ancestor worship was profound in pre-modern China, so how was it originally related to architecture and how was it associated with a notion of quiddity? This essay unravels an integration of triadic notions linking ancestry to architecture and quiddity (essence of being), even though they may be seen as discrete from a modern perspective. Architecture was viewed as an important representation of ancestry and an indicator of the sanctity of ancestors in pre-modern China. The triadic interconnected relationship can first be found in the overlapping meanings of words in ancient Chinese. It is then observed through the composition and implication of miaohao (literally the name of the temple, but in practice, a posthumous title for the emperor) and tanghao (literally, the formal name of the hall). The essay suggests that from regular reflection upon the quiddity between architecture and ancestor worship, the triad formed a mutually interconnected and mutually enhanced relationship. Although seemingly unique to pre-modern Chinese architecture, the ultimate need to periodically reflect upon the quiddity of architecture and the quiddity of family may in fact be a universal pursuit.


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