Eastern, Western cultures celebrated with ‘The Gate of Wisdom’ gift to XJTLU

30 Jul 2021

A gift of ancient Eastern architecture, "The Gate of Wisdom," was celebrated on 29 July by recipient XJTLU on its South Campus.

“The Gate of Wisdom” is a replica of an ancient gatehouse with traditional Suzhou brick-carving art. XJTLU's Department of Architecture teachers and students helped with the replicate. The original gatehouse, built in the Qing dynasty during Guangxu Emperor’s reign (AD 1875-1908), was named “Blessing Comes with Great Virtues.”

“This ancient Suzhou gatehouse is very meaningful to the XJTLU culture and campus,” said Professor Youmin Xi, Executive President of XJTLU. “The gatehouse is part of China’s architectural heritage, as well as a demonstration of the unique Eastern culture, which has improved the South Campus’s view and cultural landscape."

(Professor Youmin Xi, Executive President of XJTLU)

Professor Youmin Xi pointed out that the gatehouse offers a study in contrast to XJTLU's South Campus that—even though derived from Eastern philosophy—lacks traditional features in its mainly modern style.

Introducing a glimpse of traditional architecture “embodies the ‘East-West Dialogue’ concept championed by the University,” he said. “Combining the best of the Eastern and Western cultures, XJTLU teachers and students are more prepared for future challenges in the world.”

The 1:1 replica, made of old bricks from the Qing dynasty, were collected by donor Xiegu Construction Co., Ltd, which specializes in restoring ancient buildings. XJTLU architecture teachers and students pitched in by making digital records of the process and building a 3D model.

The original building was part of a noble businessman’s residence in Suzhou. During the Cultural Revolution, the main body was severely damaged. In 1999, the rest of the residence, including the gatehouse, was demolished during urban restructuring. Years later, architectural expert Huaming Zhu, along with a group of craftspeople, gave the building a second life after careful research and repair.

The exquisite Suzhou brick carving is a brilliant representation of brick-carving arts in southern China, which has been hailed as “Beauty of the South.” The gatehouse’s lower column is engraved with a vivid qilin, a Chinese mythological creature, and a dragon graces the upper column. The lines are smooth and delicate. The building’s name and owner’s motto, “Blessing Comes with Great Virtues,” is engraved in the middle. The saying refers to how the only path toward happiness is by leading a life of virtue.

“The Gate of Wisdom” also was displayed at the 10th Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2014. The replica of the gatehouse stood out from nearly 1,000 competitors in China and was selected by the Venice Biennale of Architecture. The exhibit travelled from Shanghai to Italy and was re-assembled in seven days by Xiegu craftspeople. Curator Zhenning Fang deciphered the meaning behind the building, giving a younger generation a chance to peek into its history.

The Biennale committed named the replica “The Gate of China,” which in 2014 was part of the central exhibition, Giardini, along with the gates of India, Italy and America. The gatehouse replica was included in the collective exhibit “Four Gates of the World.” That exhibit attracted thousands of visitors, including teachers and students from major architectural schools, from around the world.

(Above left: architectural expert Huaming Zhu, also the chairperson of Xiegu Construction Co.,Ltd.)

By Bo Kou

Translated by Xiangyin Han

Photo provided by Xiaoxi Zhao

Edited by Kathleen Pothier

Editorial support by Xinmin Han

30 Jul 2021