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Written by Ernst Boerschmann (Germany), translated and edited by Xu Yuan and Zhao Shengwei, published by Taihai Publishing House, February 2017
Between 1906 and 1909, Professor Ernst Boerschmann (1873-1949), from the department of Chinese architecture of the Royal Berlin Institute of Technology, visited China on a field survey financed by the German Royal Fund. During his stay, Boerschmann took some 8,000 photos, drew 2,500 pictures, made 2,000 stone rubbings, and wrote 1,000 pages of survey records on the royal structures, temples, ancestral halls and dwellings of the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
In 1932, Boerschmann was hired as a corresponding researcher by the Society for the Study of Chinese Architecture, a private academic body founded in 1929. From 1933 to 1935, he was appointed consultant for the heritage of traditional Chinese architecture.
After returning to his homeland, Professor Boerschmann published six books including the three-volume Art and Religious Culture of Chinese Architecture and Chinese Architecture. “On this tract of sacred land, we were stunned by the uncanny natural workmanship and inspiring Chinese architecture,” he wrote. “I hope to accurately showcase authentic Chinese philosophy and culture and unveil the mystery of the Chinese nation through research of these ancient structures.”
On his achievements in the study of ancient Chinese architecture, Australian historian Sang Ye commented that Mr. Boerschmann was undoubtedly the first man to thoroughly investigate and record ancient Chinese architecture, leaving behind an unparalleled wealth of drawings and photos.
The Five-Pagoda Temple in Beijing. The building, first erected between 1403 and 1424 in the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), has been hailed as a magnum opus of the art of architecture and stone carving of the Ming Dynasty, as well as an example of the integration of Chinese and foreign cultures.
The pagoda in Tianning (Celestial Tranquility) Temple, Beijing. It was first erected in the 5th Century.