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The province of Anhui is often recognized as unremarkable in comparison to other provinces. Anhui does not have a lot of attractions except the breathtaking sceneries such as the well-known Huangshan Mountain, and the Hongcun village. However, there is still a lot of Anhui’s enigma of the rich cultural deposits that can be explored.

During the Comprehensive Geography of the Great Qing Dynasty under the Qianlong period, the provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui were separated. Anhui was then named after the initials of Anqing and Huizhou city. And because of the presence of Mount Wan within the province’s territory, Anhui was also called Wan for short.

Anhui is located in the eastern part of China, along the Yangtze River Delta basin. The province is within close range of the river, spanning the Huai River, Yangtze River, and the Xin'an River. Its terrain consists of plains, hills, and mountains. The culture of Anhui has a long history of development and consists of four cultural overlaps, which include the Huizhou culture, Huai River culture, Wanjiang culture, and Luzhou culture. Amongst these cultures, Huizhou architecture in particular is a major part of Anhui culture and has always been a traditional Chinese style of architecture that is admired by all architects and scholars.


Like the Jiangnan architecture that was mentioned in previous articles, Hui-style architecture is also characterized by the basic structure of a hall-well (residence with patio). Yet, due to the individual environment of Anhui and the distinctive lifestyle of the Huizhou locals, the Hui-style architecture has created unique manifold designs based on the original hall-well style.


To begin with, Huizhou local’s emphasis on lineage is comparably stronger than other regions. Their residence and villages are often laid out for specific gatherings. One example of this is the Hongcun Village, one of the most famous ancient villages in Anhui. It was built in the Shaoxing period of the Southern Song Dynasty and was the settlement of the Wang family.


Moreover, most Hui-style dwellings face southwest rather than facing north like other traditional residences. This is due to the fact that Huizhou is surrounded by mountains on three sides where there is a gap in the southwest direction. In this case,  based on the theory of Feng Shui the dwellings should be facing southwest.


Furthermore, Anhui Province has a latitude between 29°41′ and 34°38′, with recognizable seasons and a significant monsoon, which often causes temperatures to plummet when intense cold waves pass through. Thus, this southwestern orientation architecture allows natural sunlight to shine through the interior rooms during winter. 

On the topic of appearance, the Hui-style architectures are elegantly decorated. There aren’t any colorful ornaments, only white walls and gray tiles. This design echoes the surrounding mountains and the water in the near distance, just like traditional Chinese calligraphy paintings.



When talking about the development and inheritance of Hui-style architecture, the image of the Suzhou Museum appears automatically. This Museum was designed by the well known Pritzker Prize winner Mr. I.M. Pei in 2004.


I. M. Pei, born in Guangzhou, China, was a world-renowned Chinese-American architect. He was raised in Shanghai and immigrated to the United States in 1935. Mr. Pei founded the architecture firm under his name I. M. Pei & Associates in 1955 at the age of 38 and has since gone on to design architecture all over the world. Mr. Pei is known for his masterpieces, such as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, the National Gallery of Art - East Building in Washington, D.C., and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris.


Those who recognized I.M. Pei after the construction of the Louvre Pyramid may not know his designs are, in fact, deeply influenced by the traditional Chinese architecture, which is fully expressed in the creation of the Suzhou Museum.


The Suzhou Museum retains the utmost characteristic feature of the Hui architectural style. With white walls and gray tiles, the whole building is light and elegant while reflecting the vividness of the surrounding vegetation. Though, on the basis of traditional architecture, Mr. Pei replaced the conventional tiles by black granite tiles to stabilize the construction of the roof. 

Courtesy of PEI Architects
Photo: PEI Architects

Most of the vegetation selected for the Suzhou Museum, such as lotus, pine tree, osmanthus, ginkgo, and bamboo, are commonly used in traditional Chinese garden design. The rigid contours of the architecture marvelously complement the natural soft outline of the plants to create a harmonious atmosphere of both rigidity and softness. 


Set against the white background wall, the modern rock adorning the central pool creates a layered shadow and silhouette against the white background wall, coming into view like a Chinese calligraphy painting. 

Photo: Chenxing Mi, Rome Based Photographer

While entering the building, natural light pours through the modernist forms of the triangular diamond-shaped glass roof, brightening up the interior. The glass roof appears to be the modernized traditional architectural skydome, ensuring natural light and reducing unnecessary energy consumption. 


Looking upwards towards the skydome, the metal sunshade and the wooden structure softens the direct sunlight shining into the interior. The Suzhou Museum’s design in treating light sources reflects on Mr. Pei’s utilization of the traditional Chinese architectural culture and further demonstrates his consideration for energy conservation and environmental protection. 


“Let the light do the design”, Mr. Pei said.


Although the changing of light brings changes in the museum's atmosphere, observing light’s interaction with the architecture at different moments creates a unique yet splendid experience while walking through the Suzhou Museum.

Photo: Chenxing Mi, Rome Based Photographer

Special Acknowledgement for Photo Authorization

Pei Architects,

Chenxing Mi, Rome Based Photographer,

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