Caisson: Ancient Ceiling Design of China

Traditional Chinese architecture consists of intricate craftsmanship, durability, beautiful motifs, and stunning details. Caisson, the ancient ceiling architecture of China, is an example that contains these factors. Also known as the spider-web ceiling, Caisson is a sunken panel set into the ceiling with details and carvings. It holds a special place in traditional Chinese architecture, especially visible in theatres, temples, and palace rooms. Generally, one can see the ceilings directly on top of the throne or the main religious statues. Therefore, the ceiling would tell the visitor that the one under it was very important and commanded respect.

caisson ceiling

Aside from its aesthetic value, Caisson also had a spiritual significance for the Chinese. Most of the time, temples in China were wooden and highly flammable. Therefore, they put patterns of aquatic plants like algae and lotus flowers to the ceiling designs. They believed that the symbols of water and coolness would stop a fire from breaking out.

caisson art

Arguably, the most important part of the Caisson ceiling is the centerpiece. The center is the place that has the motifs, frescoes, and carvings which make the ceilings special. Since dragons are an important part of Chinese culture, many ceilings of this tradition had dragons in their center. Some of these dragons were the representation famous myth of two dragons trying to catch a pearl.

caisson design

Among the dragon ceilings, the one in the Forbidden City has to be the most stunning and important. The ceiling in the Forbidden City throne room is a dragon that looks like it is coming through down the ceiling. In addition, there is a chandelier coming from the mouth of the dragon, which the Chinese call Yellow Emperor Mirror. This design comes from the myth of the Yellow Emperor who was believed to have mastered all emotions and needs of the body and mind. Moreover, according to the belief, the mirror would show one their true self and help the emperor understand whether the person before him was pure or evil.

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