78. Childhood in a courtyard house

Siheyuan1In his lovely picture book Childhood in a courtyard house《四合院里的小时候》architect and illustrator Xie Xiaozhen 谢小振 presents the story of this classical building type, often associated with Beijing but common in many parts of China. For children and parents interested in architecture the book is a goldmine – not only are the illustrations marvellous, Xie shows us details in the construction of gates and roofs, talks about roof tiles, edge plates, door stops, door knockers, and “spirit walls” – the often richly decorated walls that make it possible to keep the outer gate open without letting people in the street see what’s going on inside the courtyard. Xie also describes other objects and decorations that are traditionally common in a courtyard of this kind: goldfish ponds, trees, trellises, and so on.
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