Date of Award

Fall 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt

Second Advisor

Dr. Victor H. Mair

Third Advisor

Dr. Tracy Miller


The dissertation challenges one of the most distinctive features in traditional Chinese architecture, the bracket set known as dougong 斗栱, and discusses diverging stylistic variations that actually existed in Shanxi province 山西省 between the eleventh and nineteenth centuries against the background of official-style building. The key challenge was to see beyond the long lasting stereotypes in China that did not allow full acknowledgement of the wide range of corbelled clusters with bracket-arms projecting at acute or obtuse angles to the wall plane i.e. xiegong 斜栱, and the importance of such non-conformity. The scope of research was limited to the extant pool of timber structures in Shanxi officially designated as key national heritage conservation units between 1961 and 2006. Through visual and textual study and especially through on-site field work the author collected quantitative and qualitative data with regard to the possible containment of fan-shaped bracket sets, hereafter named shanshi dougong 扇式斗栱, and the tightly spaced, grid-like scepter bracketing known as ruyi dougong 如意斗栱. As a result, the thesis formulates the necessary nomenclature and appropriate methodology along with proper guidelines for discussing the rich pool of xiegong-architecture in the future. With special emphasis on the Jindongnan area in southeast Shanxi, it proves the highly flexible, underlying concept of yielding to different regional and local construction methods, and to environmental and economical conditions.

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