Design, Cultural Traditions and the Environment   

DES 201 Design, Cultural Traditions and the Environment                                                                                            spring 2017

                                                                                                                department of design, cvpa, syracuse university


 TEST 5,  PART A, Essay/Take-Home: Ancient China & Japan  Due Wed, 

To be turned in in class, printed, same format requirements as previously. THIS MUST BE TURNED IN AS ONE SHEET!


All of the works asked about below (including the Pagoda building type and its evolution) are pictured in the textbook. Use those images to help you be accurate and specific in your comparisons and expalnations.



1.a) Discuss the Nanchan Temple as a typical example of ancient Chinese architecture. What are the key characteristics of structure, material and form, how do they relate directly to the natural environment of ancient China? How do these traits in turn relate to the key cultural beliefs and ways of thinking in ancient Chinese society? In other words, how is it typical of the main form of ancient Chinese architecture we studied, and how can you use it as an example of some of the “big ideas” (for China) discussed in class? Consider Confucianism and Daoism as two different strands of Chinese thinking, and discuss how the Temple reflects both in specific ways. (Talk about specific features of the building that are typical of classic Chinese architecture.)


b) Now consider the Ise Shrine in the same way? What is Japanese about it, and how does it exemplify the main ideas we discussed? How would you distinguish it from the Nanchan Temple? What’s different, but also what is similar, and why? Remember to consider the site (designed landscape) immediately around the central shrine buildings (as compared with the Nanchan Temple setting) as it has important implications for answering the question.

Remember to discuss Shinto as a characteristically Japanese way of spirituality, as it is expressed at the Shrine.




2.a) Consider the “Moon Cakes” (Rainbow-Bridge-to-the-Moon) story. What is the type of building that is noted early in the story and is important to it’s imagery and themes. What is the significance of this particular building to the story in terms of what the story is about and what it presents as key themes? What is the origin, very simply, of this building type as we discussed it in class, and why is it so significant as an expression of certain ancient Chinese ideas? What aspects of, or elements in the story reinforce the deeper ideas or themes you relate to this history? What specific features or aspects of the building type help to express its meaning?

b) Now look at the Chinese Silk Banner in the textbook, consider it as discussed in class – and in light of the Moon Cakes story asked about above. How does is the banner typically ancient Chinese in terms of symbols, and key ideas or attitudes? What main ideas or attitudes does silk as used in ancient Chinese design seem to most directly relate to, and how? Your answer to 2b should have some connection to your answer to 2a.

3.a) Consider the Japanese Album Leaf calligraphy shown in the textbook and in class: How is it typically Japanese in character, and how does this work of Japanese calligraphy relate to the Feng Ju album selection of Chinese calligraphy (also shown in the Textbook)? Relate them to the typical traits / themes we outlined for the two cultures.

b) Can you find (and explain) a link to the Bamboo Cutter story in this work, or in any of the Japanese design we looked at? Relate it to the calligraphy above (the Album Leaf calligraphy), but also to Japanese architecture or interior design in some way (the Ise Shrine, at least). (Go back to the main theme we developed for Japanese design.)

c) Briefly state the important differences between the Yin-Yang symbol from Daoism and the Enso form from Zen Buddhist practice, as discussed in class, in the context of (in connection with) the observations you made about calligraphy above.