Red Walls and Yellow Glazed Tile Roof

  Red Walls and Yellow Glazed Tile RoofIn China, the colour red has long meant solemnity, happiness, wealth and honour.

  The Upper Cave Man, a primitive human being who lived near Beijing 10 to 20 thousand years ago, used red colour to decorate their caves. Red-painted palaces appeared more than 2,000 years ago and continued down all the way to the Qing Dynasty. But what about For-bidden City buildings that do not have red walls and yellow glazed-tile roofs?

  Wenyuange (the Imperial Library) has black glazed-tile roofs. This again goes back to the theory of Wuxing (the five elements), in which black represents water. The black roof was supposed to protect the building from fire. Nansansuo, the Qing princes’ quarters, has green glazed-tiles on its roofs. According to the rules, green tiles were to be used on princes’ residence. Where artisans and chefs worked and lived, the roofs were made of grey tile and the walls were grey brick. Yellow has long been considered a pure colour in China. It represents the earth among the five elements-metal, wood, water, fire and earth-and indicates the centre and symbolizes dignity.

  According to ancient records, the Tang (618-907) emperors adopted the practice of the previous dynasty, and wore yellow robes. Later, they forbade others to dress in yellow. After that, yellow be-came the symbolic colour of the imperial family.

  Yellow glazed-tile roofs were used in the Imperial Palace in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was stipulated in the Ming and Qing dynasties that yellow glazed-tiles could be used on imperial palaces and tombs, or on temples built under the orders of the Emperor. Those who used them in any other way could be sentenced to death.

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