The completion of the construction of traditional architecture is followed by the renovation of the architecture to complete the atmosphere of the space. Although the decoration might not always be practical, in fact, renovation shows aesthetics and structure, and conveys specific information as well as creating spirit of the space. The decoration and renovation not only manifest the theme of the architecture but also carries cultural symbols.
Renovation is to add objects outside of the main structure between the other buildings. These objects become intermediaries with body and the sensory world. They have substantial functions and could trim the edge. Therefore, they could be called ‘sub-structure’. In between the renovation materials and the main structure, the sub-structure presents an open construction system. Basically, the objects can be divided into doors and windows for external renovation and walls, and division objects for internal renovation. In this way, it makes the whole structure and space possible.
As for the decoration, common traditional decoration is usually based on the puns, transference, extended meanings, mythologies, legends, and allusions of various graphic and figurative vocabulary. They can be expressed through symbolism, praying, warding off evil spirits, manifestation, aesthetics, allegory, simile, and metaphor, etc. Some objects contain specific connotations while some should be interpreted by being put together. The patterns of the decoration vary from animals, plants, nature, geometry, human, to objects, etc. As time goes by, the decoration evolves, gradually developing decoration in styles of multiple cultures. The meanings of the decoration include the following three points:
First: beautifying the architecture
By adopting various decoration materials, patterns, colors, textures, and styles, the appearance of the temple could be in harmony with the surroundings. It reveals the aesthetics of the temple and makes the surroundings more beautiful.
Second, connotation of fortune
Patterns might connote more profound meanings than literal significance. For example, the pattern of ‘Ao Yu’ (dragon head with fish body) signifies ‘outstand oneself to pass the Imperial Examination in high scores’. ‘Ancient Flowers’ focus on a vase and flowers. In Mandarin, a vase ‘ping’ sounds the same as ‘ping an’ (safe). With the flowers of four seasons, this painting indicates ‘being safe all year round’. The fruit tray serves as ‘flowers, lamps, and fruit’ for the gods, showing the sincerity to pray for safety and blessings.
With the stories of loyalty, filial piety, chastity, and righteousness as the background, such as the stories of the miracle created by Heng Ha Er Jiang in Feng Shen Yan Yi, legends of 24 filial exemplars, stories of Eight Immortals, etc., the patterns glorify the good, eliminate the evil, and educate people to be moral. These images convey stories regarding loyalty, filial piety, chastity, righteousness, wisdom, trust, and courage, etc. For instance, ‘Wall of Mazu’s Miracles’ beside God of Prosperity Pit describe a lot of these kinds of stories.