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Liang Sicheng (1901¨C1972)

Brief Introduction of Liang Sicheng
Liang Sicheng (Chinese: ÁºË¼³É; pinyin: Li¨¢ng S¨©ch¨¦ng; 1901¨C1972) is the famous architectural history scientist, architectural educationalist and academician. He was the son of Liang Qichao, a well-known Chinese thinker in the late Qing Dynasty. Liang Sicheng returned to China from the United States after studying at the University of Pennsylvania. His first wife was Lin Huiyin and his niece is Maya Lin.

Liang is the author of China's first modern history on Chinese architecture and founder of the Architecture Department of Northeast University in 1928 and Tsinghua University in 1946. He was

the Chinese representative for the Design Board which designed the United Nations headquarters in New York. He, along with Lin Huiyin, Mo Zongjiang, and Ji Yutang, discovered and analyzed the first and second oldest timber structures still standing in China, located at Nanchan Temple and Foguang Temple at Mount Wutai.

He is recognized as the ¡°Father of Modern Chinese Architecture¡±. To cite Princeton University, which awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 1947, he was ¡°a creative architect who has also been a teacher of architectural history, a pioneer in historical research and exploration in Chinese architecture and planning, and a leader in the restoration and preservation of the priceless monuments of his country.¡±

Liang¡¯s Wife
Liang's wife, Lin Huiyin (known in the United States as Phyllis Lin), was an equal legend in China¡¯s history. She was recognized as an artist, architect and poet. Enchanted by her beauty and talent, several famous scholars never married or yearned for her even after their own marriages. Among them there were famous poet Xu Zhimo, philosopher Jin Yuelin and economist Chen Daisun. It was she who led Liang into the field of architecture. She was always the strongest supporter of her husband¡¯s career.

Study Abroad
In 1924, the couple went to University of Pennsylvania on a Boxer Rebellion Indemnity Scholarship to study architecture under Paul Cret. Three years later, Liang got his master degree in architecture. He greatly benefited from his education in America. It also helped him with his own professorship back in China.

When the couple return home in 1928, they established the second school of architecture in China, but also the first curriculum which took a western curriculum (to be precise, the curriculum from University of Pennsylvania) as its prototype.

Effort to Preserve Traditional Building
Liang started his research by "decoding" classical manuals and consulting the workmen who had the traditional skills. From the start of his new career as a historian, Liang was determined to search and discover what he termed the ¡°grammar¡± of Chinese architecture. He recognized that throughout China¡¯s history the timber-frame had been the fundamental form of construction. He also realized that it was far from enough just to sit in his office day and night engaged in the books. He had to get out searching for the surviving buildings in order to verify his assumptions. His first travel was in April 1932. In the following years he and his colleagues successively discovered some surviving traditional buildings, including: the Temple of Buddha's Light (857), the Temple of Solitary Joy (984), the Yingzhou Pagoda (1056), Zhaozhou Bridge (589-617), and many others. Because of their effort, these buildings managed to survive.

Books Published
To spread and share his understandings and appreciation of Chinese architecture, and most importantly, to help save its diminishing building technologies, Liang published his first book, ¡°Qing Structural Regulations,¡± in 1934.

In another book, ¡°History of Chinese Architecture,¡± he divided the previous 3,500 years into six architectural periods, defined each period by references to historical and literary citations, described existing monuments of each period, and finally analyzed the architecture of each period as evidenced from a combination of painstaking library and field research. All of these books have become a solid basis for the following scholars to explore evolution and principles of Chinese architecture and still have their eminent meanings today.

Liang's posthumous manuscript "Chinese Architecture, A Pictorial History," written in English , edited by Wilma Fairbank was published by MIT Press in 1984 and won ForeWord Magazine's Architecture "Book of the Year" Award."

Beloved Educator
Liang was also respected by his colleagues and students as a humorous, dedicated and responsible teacher. He founded two design programs and searched to integrated modernism and best practices into design education.

Repression and Criticism During the Cultural Revolution

During the Cultural Revolution, Liang Sicheng was condemned as "an authority of counter-revolutionary scholarship" and suffered severe persecution. He died in Beijing in 1972, three years before the Cultural Revolution ended. He was subsequently rehabilitated.

Restoration Works
Wenyuan Chamber in the Forbidden City--Liang's first experience participating in restoring an old building.
Liang's attitude toward traditions is typical of the Chinese spirit of being conservative.
Design work: Monk Ganjin Memorial Hall, Yangzhou
July 2009