Chinese Architecture Dictionary ......................  Illustrated Architecture Dictionary


Network that joined pillars and columns to the frame of the roof in traditional Chinese architecture.

Excerpts from
(online Dec. 2013)

Dougong is part of the network of wooden supports essential to the timber frame structure of traditional Chinese building because the walls in these structures are not load-bearing (curtain walls), sometimes made of latticework, mud or other delicate material. Walls functioned to delineate spaces in the structure rather than to support weight.

The function of dougong is to provide increased support for the weight of the horizontal beams that span the vertical columns or pillars by transferring the weight on horizontal beams over a larger area to the vertical columns.

Multiple interlocking bracket sets are formed by placing a large wooden block (dou) on a column to provide a solid base for the bow-shaped brackets (gong) that support the beam or another gong above it.

The pieces are fitted together by joinery alone without glue or fasteners.

Brackets could be hung under eaves, giving the appearance of graceful baskets of flowers while also supporting the roof.

Generally speaking, the Chinese method of house-building did not call for crossbeams (aka transverse beams) to link the individual pillar-and-beam modules together, though this was not a hard and fast rule. In general, the roof served this linking function.

Moreover, the roof was not attached directly to the beams but was instead attached directly to so-called brackets (dougong) which in turn were attached to the beams, some brackets being situated directly above each pillar-and-beam joint, with others being spaced along the length of each beam – in the extreme, brackets could be placed almost contiguously along the entire length of the beam.

A typical dougong consisted of a flat block of wood (dou), on top of which was fixed an interlocking (by means of clever, mortise-and-tenon joinery only, i.e., without the aid of nails, glue, etc.) set of curved wooden slats, or bows (gong) with each upward-curved bow longer than the bow below it.

Because the dougong extended laterally beyond the outer edge of the beam (which earns it the English language moniker "bracket"), it provided a slightly broader platform on which to rest the roof, which was invariably wider than the supporting frame below (in addition, the roof's eaves generally extended far beyond the outer framework of the building), and because the dougong consisted of a series of increasingly longer bows stacked one atop the other that could flex yet resisted continued bouncing (the increasingly shorter bows, viewed from top to bottom, had a dampening effect on shocks to the frame), the Chinese building could flex with the movement of storms and earthquakes, yet without reverberating uncontrollably.

In some cases – especially in the case of a single-storey building – the duogong sat directly atop the pillars, with the superstructure, or roof, attached to only these pillar-and-dougong modules...

The first dougong appeared during the latter part of the Western Zhou (BCE 1027-771) Dynasty, and were in widespread use by the time of the first half, or Spring and Autumn (BCE 770-476) Period, of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty...


Photos and their arrangement 2013 Chuck LaChiusa
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