Exquisite structure of dougong. Photo by Xu Jun
Yanfu Temple is located in the town of Taoxi, Wuyi County. The existing main hall of the temple was built in the fourth year of Emperor Renzong of the Yuan Dynasty (1317). It is the earliest of the three wooden buildings from the Yuan Dynasty in the Jiangnan region. The other two are Jinhua’s Tianning Temple, built in the fifth year of Emperor Renzong of the Yuan Dynasty, and Shanghai’s Zhenru Temple, built in the seventh year of Emperor Renzong of the Yuan Dynasty.
The main hall is five rooms wide. It is beautiful in appearance, and tight and solid in structure. It retains the artistic style and structural characteristics of dougong (wooden brackets) in the Yuan Dynasty. The hall has an East Asian hip-and-gable roof, with no nail or tenon between the beams and columns. They are all connected and supported by the wooden brackets. The structure is firm and solid, and extends the cornice forward, making it like a flying swallow spreading its wings in the air.
The main hall of Yanfu Temple is famous at home and abroad. A couple in China, Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin, discovered it in 1934. “This dougong has a special shape and is different from the traditional ones. It is a rare building,” wrote Liang, an architect, in his book A History of Chinese Architecture. He also wrote many articles to introduce the structural characteristics of the Yanfu Temple. (By Xu Jun, translated by Jin Haiqiong, edited by Kendra Fiddler)