Difference Between Japanese and Chinese Architecture, Buildings in Japan & China, Construction

Difference Between Chinese and Japanese Architecture?

Key Architectural Designs: Eastern Asia Built Environment Variations

26 July 2019

What Is the Difference Between Chinese and Japanese Architecture?

Architecture in Japan and China bears a few similarities, but there are many more vast differences which tend to be overlooked. Although China influenced Japan, historically, through Buddhism; the differences lie in the details.

One of the major influences of each architectural style is that the Chinese lifestyle included chairs while the Japanese lifestyle did not as it was customary to sit on the floor. However, this custom changed in the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Often times, the two types of architectural structures are confused, mainly because of China’s influence on Japanese tradition. China’s architectural style has been developed for over a million years giving rise to dominance.

Difference Between Chinese and Japanese Architecture?
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Structural Differences

Japanese architecture consists of wooden structures which are slightly elevated above the ground. Japanese roofs are also characterized by either tiles or thatched roofs.

Meanwhile, Chinese architecture is characterized by bilateral symmetry, enclosed open spaces, an emphasis on horizontal orientation and a range of allusion to symbolism and cosmology. An innovative aspect of Japanese architecture is replacing walls with sliding doors creating an adjustable sense of space.

Furthermore, the use of low furniture was attributed to the fact that the Japanese sat on the floor and cushions. High tables were incorporated into the designs in the 19th century.

Japan’s early architecture was comprised of simple pit-houses which were simply functional and catered to the needs of the hunter-gatherer population. However, the influence of the Han Dynasty introduced the notion of more complex structures.

Buddhism was also a catalyst in transforming architecture in Japan by introducing complicated techniques using wood. Traditionally, Chinese architecture categorizes structures according to type — these range from pagodas to palaces.

The Chinese place a great emphasis on using wood, and each structure and choice of the material varied according to the function of the building. For instance, in China, commoners and emperor’s homes were not made of the same materials and the different styles are assigned to each geographic region and ethnicity.

Influences and Transformation

Japan’s architecture was transformed by two main events:

  1. The Kami and Buddhas Separation Act

This act formally disjointed Buddhism from Shinto and Buddhist temples from Shinto Shrines thus breaking a tie that had existed for thousands of years

  1. Westernization

Japan adopted a range of styles from abroad during a period of Westernization; the aim of this project was to have Japan compete with first world countries.

Many architectural styles were adopted from foreigners, architects studied abroad and introduced a modern approach to its buildings. After World War 2, Japanese architects gained international recognition leading to the international fame of architects like Kenzo Tange.

On the contrary, Chinese architectural principles remain largely unchanged, and the major changes have mostly been applied decoratively. However, movements like the Tang Dynasty influenced styles in Japan, Korea and Mongolia among other nations.

In the 20th century, Chinese architects tinkered with the traditional structures to innovate modern architectural designs with success. The major influence of this transformation is the pressure for urban development.

Urban development demanded higher structures; China’s levels were usually less than three floors. In its transformation, Chinese architecture has remained true to its traditional elements and skills including carpentry, masonry and stone masonry which are still applied in contemporary structures.

It has influenced many new architects and architecture students. Students from other countries regularly visit these architecture masterpieces to understand it better. If you are a student from engineering or architecture, you can plan a visit to China to understand the transformation.

Pack your bags, outsource your writing work and paper writing to an essay writing service and plan a trip that would enhance your knowledge of the subject matter.

Tradition vs. Modernism

Japanese have always been held in high regard by the west, particularly in the United States of America, in terms of architecture and interior design. As early as 1876, the Japanese partook in exhibitions such as the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia.

This resulted in a nuanced enthusiasm for Japanese work from the west. Renowned architects visited Japan and played a significant role in bringing forth Japan is a great influencer in modernism. According to cultural experts, “the west discovered the quality of space in traditional Japanese architecture through a filter of western architectural values.”

China, on the other hand, has been more influential in Asian countries, and its architecture has influenced countries like Sri Lanka, India and certain parts of Southeast Asia.

Other structures in Asian countries which tend to resemble the Chinese-style architecture are Buddhist Temples, buildings Hindu Temples in Nepal, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia and Laos.


Although the Japanese and Chinese architecture tend to be confused, there are clear differences between what sets each one apart. Chinese architecture was cited by Liang Sicheng in 1984, to be as old as the Chinese civilization itself, testifying to the fact that the Chinese have always excelled in creating an ingenious system of design.

Meanwhile, the Japanese structures aspire to be more modern and be able to adapt to its Western counterparts and demands. The very aesthetic of Japanese interior design is influenced by both religious figures and elements of the west. Meanwhile, the Chinese excel within their own traditional methods.

Japanese Architecture

Japanese Architects

Japanese Architecture

Japanese Architecture Designs

Japanese Architecture Developments

Japanese Building Designs

Japanese Building Developments

Japanese Buildings

Chinese Architecture

China Architecture Design – chronological list

Chinese Architects Offices – Design Practice Listings

Chinese Buildings

Resort in Hongtong Bay Hainan Island
Design: M CO Design
Lumionous Resort
image from architect

Zhejiang World Trade Center
Architects: Leigh & Orange
Zhejiang World Trade Center
image from architecture office

Zhejiang World Trade Center in Hangzhou

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