Gold Bricks of Chinese Architecture

Gold Bricks of Chinese Architecture
china tour:Gold Bricks of Chinese Architecture

china tours:Gold Bricks of Chinese Architecture——Palace halls and courts have been paved with bricks for more than 2,000 years since the Spring and Autumn period (475-221 BC)and this has become a special salient feature of classical architecture. Nowadays, the visitor can see brick-paved floors and groungs in the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace. The Dingling (Tomb of Stability) of the Ming Tombs and similar places. The bricks so used are called “gold bricks.”

Naturally not made of real gold, they are so-called because, when knocked, they produce a metallic sound. Another tale for the name goes that they were officially called during the Ming and Qing dynasties jingzhuan (meaning capital bricks) {京砖}because bricks of this quality were meant only for the imperial houses in the capital. The third tale continues that much as a tael (or 1. 102 ounces or 31.25 grams) of pure gold . As the time went by, jingzhuan came to be known as  Jingzhuan or gold brick. Whatever the reason for the unusual name, they did involve great costs and difficult skills to produce ( the gold brick took entirely two years from the very ginning to the finished product) and, in this sense, the name might not be an exaggeration.

The area around Suzhou used to be home to these“ gold bricks.” Lying close to the Grand Canal, it abounds in a kind of fine clay most suitable as the material for a more compact and higher quality bricks. To produce those meant for the palace buildings, a strict procedure of manufacture must be stick to. It included selecting the clay, pugging, setting, moulding, drying in the shade and, finally, firing in the kiln. Firing was the most sophisticated one. According to The Illustrated Book on the Selection of bricks, adobes or unburned bricks after being put , a Ming-Dynasty work, “the smouldering husks for one month, burnt with fire-wood chips for a second month, with twigs for the third month and with pine branches for another 40 days—totalling 130 days—before they were left to cool down and taken out of the kiln. Legend relates that the cost of a gold brick made this way was 0.96 Tael (a tael is equal to 31.25 grams or 1.102 ounces )of silver, enough to buy in those days one one dan,( a dan of dry measure of grain “equivalent to 1 hectolitre” in imperial times, holding about 100 litres) of rice. Legend continues that during the Ming emperor Jiajing’s reign (1522-66), three years were spent to make 50,000 bricks of this quality, averaging only 5 bricks per day. All finished gold bricks were transported to Beijing—the then capital—by the 1,794-kilometre-long Hangzhou-Beijing Grand Canal. After these bricks were shipped to Beijing, officials in charge strictly examined them. Each brick was strictly checked of b“being struck with metallic sound, and no apertures when they were broken ”Then the officials in charge accepted the finished bricks.

The laying of these bricks, like their manufacture, must follow strict procedure. A bricklayer with the assistance of two helpers could only lay five in a day. Each piece must be ground and polished on site in such a way that, when paved, they fitted perfectly with other pieces, leaving no crevices. The “ gold bricks” must also be soaked with raw tung oil (tung oil is usually used for the caulking, oiling and vanishing of junks and sampans ) so that they became lustrously dark like black jade.

Although worn by several hundred years of time and trodden during the late half of 20th century by millions upon millions of visitors, largely remained intact, thanks to their rock-like hardness. Today they are from time to time mopped with a kind of high-quality plant oil to get a new layer of protection. Also to protect these gold bricks, visitors are not permitted to enter most of the halls and palaces either in the Forbidden City or in the Summer Palace.

For the modern tourist. the charm of the Forbidden City lies not only in the massive grandeur of the royal style but also in the city’s welter of small yet fascinating details. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the history of the Forbidden City, and your “audience with the Sons of Heaven” is bound to be a rewarding experience.