Image from (http://citylife.house.sina.com.cn/detail.php?gid=32684). Annotation mine.
The entire complex is a combination of courtyard houses for each individual family member. The hierarchy of spaces is dictated through its depth – the further you go into the courtyard, the more important the space is.
Zhenguo Monastery is found on the outskirts of the Pingyao Historic City. Built around 900AD, the monastery demonstrates the architecture of the Five Dynasties period. Materials are mostly exposed, unpainted and walls are made of mud and lined on two sides with bricks. The absence of decorated paintings and colourful tiles makes the forms and lines in the temple to be even stronger.
An ancient city founded in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 771 BC) and rebuilt in 1370, Ancient City of Pingyao is one of the only fully preserved Chinese cities. Visiting there it was fascinating to find that although there are some touristic streets, the city is also still a fully working city. There are 20 000 residents still living in the historic city,t with fully functional schools, police stations, fire stations etc. The reason why the historic city was preserved, however, was mainly that the area was not near any major cities – its location meant that there was no pressure to develop it.
The historic city, however was the financial centre of China in the 18th, 19th century. Being the home to bankers, the city residents were rich but land was limited within the city. The effect of this is that the historic city contains quite a number of courtyard houses built very tightly into the city fabric.
Narrow courtyard houses.
The courtyards in the houses are typically narrow and long, with buildings on the sides having single pitches (highlighted in magenta is one courtyard house).
The entire historic city underwent major restorations. Many of the courtyard houses are still undergoing restoration under the Global Heritage Fund. One of the issues facing restoration is the issue of water corroding brick structures – a problem found on many brick walls around the city.