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The structural type: dian tang vs. ting tang

The Yingzao fashi describes two types of halls: dian tang (upper illustration) and ting tang (lower illustration). These differ primarily in their structure, but have formal/spatial and hierarchical distinctions as well.

  • In structural terms, the dian tang (sometimes translated as 'high-ranking hall') can be conceived of as two layers separated by the ceiling:
  • the roof structure above, and
  • the frame structure below, composed of columns of equal height and beams.
  • This means that the interior columns can be located independently of the roof structure above. The ting tang ('lower-ranking hall'), on the other hand, consists of repeated transversal frames (liangjia) which integrate columns and roof structure; the columns may be of different heights and extend into the roof structure up to the cross beams.

    This distinction pertains only to the main part of a building. The dian tang in the upper illustration has columns of different sizes, but the shorter ones belong to the porches, or fujie, and so are not relevant to the distinction.

  • In formal / spatial terms, the most important distinction is the ceiling: the dian tang has one, while the ting tang does not. Put in another way, the dian tang conceals the roof structure, while the ting tang leaves it exposed to the interior.
  • In hierarchical terms, the dian tang is used for higher ranks of building than the ting tang. As noted above, our sample building is a ting tang. (Actually, for such a simple building, there is no structural difference: if there were a ceiling, the structure would still be the same. The building has no interior columns, so the question of their relation with the roof structure is moot.)

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