Traditional Chinese window lattice

Traditional Chinese window lattice

Window lattices are a key element in the structural design of traditional Chinese wooden architecture, making windows one of the most important components and aesthetic focal points of these buildings. Different types include panel lattices, pane windows, partitions, removable windows, and privacy windows.


Definition and Composition of Window Lattices


The term "window lattice" refers to the horizontal or vertical grid structures inside a window, also known as window grids or window muntins. Distinct from the window frame, which is the surrounding structure made of wood, iron, aluminum, etc., the window lattice specifically denotes the grid design within the window. This feature is formally referred to in architectural terminology.


Detailed Analysis of Window Lattices


Window lattices, a term frequently encountered in ancient architecture and traditional home decor, elegantly describe the orderly and intricate grid structures within a window. These grids are formed by fine wooden strips, called "lattice strips," arranged in specific patterns and layouts to create what is known as the "lattice grid." Beyond fulfilling practical functions such as ventilation and lighting, window lattices, with their unique shapes and craftsmanship, are an essential part of traditional architectural aesthetics, showcasing the artisans' exquisite skills and pursuit of beauty.


It's important to note that window lattices and window frames are distinct concepts, despite both playing vital roles in the window's construction. The window frame, as the name suggests, is the framework surrounding the window, typically made from materials such as wood, iron, or aluminum, primarily supporting the window sash, securing the glass, and ensuring the window's overall stability. In contrast, window lattices focus on the internal design details of the window, creating rich and varied visual effects through intricate lattice strip combinations, enhancing both the window's functionality and its decorative and artistic value.


Throughout history, the design of window lattices has often reflected the cultural styles and aesthetic preferences of specific periods. From the simple and rustic rural residences to the ornate and magnificent palaces and temples, the styles of window lattices are incredibly diverse. There are the straightforward lattice windows, the elegant diamond-patterned windows, and the dynamic ice-crack patterned windows, each imbued with profound historical and cultural significance.


The Historical Development of Window Lattices


The history of window lattices can be traced back to the Neolithic period. Early cave dwellers created openings in the roofs of their dwellings for light and ventilation, referred to as "chong," which can be considered the prototype of windows. Over time, window lattices evolved into various forms and styles.


Warring States Period (475–221 BCE): Simple window lattice designs already existed. For instance, "The Songs of Chu: Summons of the Soul" mentions “netted windows decorated with red, carved in squares.”


Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE): Influenced by the policy of "deposing the hundred schools and respecting only Confucianism," architecture focused on overall order and structure, with window lattices predominantly featuring vertical (zhi ling) and horizontal (wo ling) designs.


Tang and Song Dynasties (618–1279 CE): The variety of window lattice designs expanded significantly, including panel lattices and broken lattice windows. There was also a new emphasis on artistic and aesthetic qualities in lattice designs.


Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368–1912 CE): Window lattices became more elaborate and exquisite, with diverse patterns and rich symbolism.


Intricate Craftsmanship and Decorative Beauty


Traditional window construction is highly sophisticated, with lattices carved with grooves and various patterns to create beautiful and diverse designs. Through these windows, one can view different landscapes, resembling paintings framed and hung on walls. In traditional houses, various shapes of window lattices, such as peach and gourd shapes, symbols of longevity and prosperity, pomegranate bats, fan shapes, and vase shapes, were common. These shapes were not only decorative but also allowed people to enjoy the changing views as they moved around, akin to admiring paintings in a gallery. Windows, therefore, were not just functional but also poetic, as reflected in classical poetry:

- “The window holds the thousand-year-old snow of the western peaks, and the door anchors the boat from Dongwu a thousand miles away.”

- “The carved beams fly with the clouds of the southern shore in the morning, and the pearl curtains roll up the rain of the western mountains in the evening.”

- “Awakening from a dream, the remnants of the moon disappear beyond the window, as spring birds fill the mountain with their cries at dawn.”

- “In deep autumn, the rain falls on the thousand houses beyond the curtain, and a flute plays in the wind at sunset over the towers.”


A good window should be like a good picture frame. When a person sits facing the window, the first impression should be of a beautiful scene, a poem, or a painting, leaving an indelible impression.


The Art and Cultural Value of Window Lattices


Decorative Beauty: Window lattices not only fulfill basic needs for ventilation and lighting but also incorporate decorative beauty. Craftsmen used intricate carving techniques to turn window lattices into works of art. Common patterns include peach and gourd shapes, symbols of longevity and prosperity, pomegranate bats, fan shapes, and vase shapes, each carrying auspicious meanings and expressing people's good wishes for life.


Cultural Significance: Each window lattice embodies a continuous artistic culture, depicting a scene or telling a story. They reflect the social phenomena and historical cultural background of their time, serving as an important manifestation of folk culture.


Aesthetic Focus: As an essential part of traditional architecture, window lattices became one of the aesthetic focal points. Their exquisite designs and rich cultural connotations have attracted praise and poetic admiration from countless literati and poets.


Preservation and Loss of Window Lattice Culture


The culture of window lattices is an integral part of historical culture, existing in all aspects of life in a country with a long history like China. Place names, villages, alleys, streets, and houses often encapsulate the essence of historical culture. It is crucial to value, study, and cherish these elements, giving them special consideration in development and construction. Unfortunately, in modern cities, many ancient buildings have been demolished, high-rises crowd the skyline, and views of blue skies and green spaces have become scarce. The uniformity of modern window designs has led to the disappearance of window lattice culture, evoking a sense of nostalgia.


The Craftsmanship of Window Lattices


The carving techniques used on doors and windows have been honed by Chinese artisans over thousands of years. Ancient Chinese window carving techniques included relief carving, openwork carving, and various complex methods. These techniques reflect attention to detail, such as differentiating the musculature of men and women or distinguishing between Chinese and foreign figures in their carvings. This meticulous attention to social phenomena and historical contexts, preserved and passed down through generations, represents a significant aspect of folk culture.



Representative Buildings Featuring Window Lattices


As a fundamental framework structure in traditional Chinese wooden architecture, window lattices are not only essential elements of traditional buildings but also embody rich cultural connotations and aesthetic values. Below are some representative buildings featuring window lattices:


  1. The Forbidden City (Gùgōng)

- Hall of Supreme Harmony (Tàihédiàn): The window lattices here use the "Three-Crossed Six-Petal Lattice" style, the highest grade of lattice design in the Forbidden City. This style features intersecting vertical and diagonal lattice bars forming equilateral triangles, with the intersections creating six-petal flower shapes, symbolizing orthodox state power and the unity of heaven and earth, giving birth to all things.

- Palace of Eternal Harmony (Jǐngrén Gōng): This palace uses "Double-Crossed Four-Petal Lattice" windows. These lattices are formed by two intersecting wooden bars with additional petals at the intersections, creating a radial flower pattern that symbolizes the wealth and integrity of the building's owner.


  1. Summer Palace (Yíhé Yuán)

- Aman at Summer Palace Hotel: This international hotel adjacent to the Summer Palace showcases Ming and Qing architectural styles and classic use of window lattice elements. The entrance hall features "Three-Crossed Six-Petal" lattice windows, highlighting the hotel's prestige and the royal garden's grandeur.


  1. Suzhou Gardens

- Couple's Retreat Garden (Ǒu Yuán): This garden's window lattices are richly varied, including patterns like kui dragon, turtle shell, ice crack, swastika, and butterfly. These lattices not only serve as exquisite decorations but also integrate with the garden scenery, offering an elegant atmosphere.

- Master of the Nets Garden (Wǎngshī Yuán): The garden features equally stunning lattices with patterns such as ruyi (wish-fulfilling), panlong (interlocking), and lantern. These designs complement the garden landscapes, reflecting the unique charm of Suzhou gardens.


  1. Prince Gong's Mansion (Gōng Wáng Fǔ)

As the largest royal residence of the Qing Dynasty, the window lattice designs in Prince Gong's Mansion are highly distinctive. The various carvings on the lattices not only look elegant but also symbolize good fortune and wealth.


  1. Other Representative Buildings

- Wang Family Compound (Wángjiā Dàyuàn) in Shanxi: The cave dwelling lattice designs in Wang Family Compound, particularly those in the Gui Xin Academy, are exquisitely crafted. These lattices often consist of groups of square and fan-shaped patterns, with additional animal and floral motifs for added stability and decoration.

- Ancient Architectural Complexes in Xi’an: The ancient buildings in places like Tang West Market and Dangjia Village in Hancheng feature unique lattice designs, reflecting the architectural styles and cultural connotations of different regions and eras.


In summary, representative buildings featuring window lattices are found throughout China, from palaces to mansions, gardens, and residences, showcasing the wisdom and aesthetic pursuits of ancient Chinese craftsmen. These lattices not only have practical value but also serve as important carriers of traditional Chinese culture.


 The Role of Window Lattices in Feng Shui


In Feng Shui, window lattices influence the indoor environment, airflow, and the psychological feelings of inhabitants. Although Feng Shui is not scientifically proven, window lattices in traditional Chinese culture indeed carry people's aspirations for harmonious and auspicious living environments. Here are some common views on window lattices from a Feng Shui perspective:


  1. Airflow and Ventilation

- Air Circulation: Feng Shui emphasizes smooth indoor airflow, believing that good air circulation benefits residents' health and fortune. As part of windows, window lattices should facilitate indoor-outdoor air exchange, keeping the indoor air fresh and circulating.

- Avoiding Direct Impact: Feng Shui advises against “road冲” or “wind冲,” where windows should not face roads, alleys, or wind directly to avoid adverse energy. Window lattice designs can alleviate such direct impacts by adjusting the density, shape, and layout of the lattices to guide airflow gently indoors.


  1. Lighting and View

- Natural Lighting: Window lattice designs should consider natural lighting needs, ensuring ample and soft indoor light. Good lighting benefits residents' physical and mental health and enhances the brightness and comfort of the indoor environment.

- Open View: Feng Shui believes that an open view contributes to residents' broad-mindedness and smooth fortune. Therefore, window lattice designs should avoid being too dense or obstructive, ensuring residents can enjoy expansive views and natural scenery.


  1. Shape and Meaning

- Auspicious Symbols: Window lattice shapes and patterns often contain auspicious meanings, such as the "step-by-step rise" symbolizing continuous improvement and the swastika pattern symbolizing good luck and protection. These meanings help create a positive living atmosphere and enhance residents' psychological well-being.

- Avoiding Sharpness: Feng Shui avoids sharp objects, believing they disrupt indoor harmony. Window lattice designs should avoid overly sharp or complex shapes to prevent causing unease or pressure for residents.


  1. Quantity and Layout

- Appropriate Quantity: The number of windows and window lattices should be moderate, neither too many nor too few. Too many windows and lattices might cause excessive indoor airflow, affecting health and fortune; too few might lead to insufficient lighting and poor air circulation.

- Reasonable Layout: Window lattice layouts should be reasonable and coordinated with indoor furniture and decorations. The position and orientation of window lattices should also consider residents' needs and preferences, creating a comfortable living environment.


  1. Material and Color

- Material Choice: Window lattice materials should be sturdy, durable, and easy to maintain. Traditional wooden lattices offer natural texture and beauty but require moisture and corrosion protection. Modern materials like aluminum alloy and PVC offer better durability and weather resistance.

- Color Matching: The color of window lattices should match the overall interior style. Generally, light colors help create a tranquil and comfortable atmosphere, while bright colors might add vibrancy and dynamism to the space.


In conclusion, window lattices are essential components of traditional Chinese wooden architecture, rich in historical and cultural significance and unique artistic charm. They are not only part of the architectural aesthetic but also crucial carriers of excellent traditional Chinese culture.






  1. "The Art of Window Lattices: Unique Oriental Aesthetics" – Hongmingtai Aluminum-Clad Wood Windows, 2020-10-10
  2. "Avoiding Financial Loss and Disasters: Protecting the 'Eyes of Feng Shui' at Home" – Chongrui Master Qimen Dunjia, 2020-07-02
  3. "Window Lattices: Poetic and Artistic Wooden Art" – Anhui Province Traditional Chinese Culture Research, 2022-10-19



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