Nirvana Memorial Park (Ipoh) Series 7
The Beauty of the Caisson
The Tang Villa columbarium is embodied by the beauty of two main artistic spaces.
The artistry within sanctuary is the link between space and design, between life and aesthetics.
The Seven Stars of the Big Dipper in the glorious starry skies and the beautifully decorated caisson ceiling exist in a harmonious setting that mirrors the relationship between Heaven and Man to create an artistic realm unique to Tang Villa.
The magnificent caisson ceiling
An artistic stairway from Earth to Heaven
If there is anything in China that is comparable to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes from the “Book of Genesis”, it would be “zaojing” or the caisson ceiling. The caisson ceiling plays a very important role in ancient Chinese architecture, being a unique decorative part of the roof of a palace or temple interior with various motifs, carvings and paintings that are spectacularly beautiful and memorable.
Perhaps most are unfamiliar with the term; simply put, the caisson is the well-shaped and richly decorated part of the interior ceiling that is raised upward to form a circle, square, octagon or other shapes. It is usually decorated with colourful murals and reliefs and used on noble and beautiful structures to symbolise the sublimity of the universe and sacred purposes.
Different from the caisson designs above sacred altars of traditional temples, the caisson above the central part of Tang Villa’s columbarium caters to stylish, modern designs and is decorated with exquisite crystal chandeliers and finely carved translucent glass – forming a contrast between Heaven and Earth – providing a sense of elevation.
In addition, the caisson also contains elements of traditional Chinese philosophical thought. As the saying goes, there is always water in the well, and water and fire are incompatible. To prevent fire, construct a well at the highest point of the temple and decorate it with patterns of algae, lotus, water chestnut and other aquatic plants with the idea of suppressing fire and protecting the safety of the building.
The Seven Stars of the Big Dipper
One of the treasures of Tang dynasty art
It is believed that many people enjoy looking at the starry night skies when they were young and have endless reveries about it. Therefore, it can be said that the starry sky has accompanied countless many in beautiful nights; which explains why modern folks love to use the starry sky in designs of architectural spaces. The concept of the starry sky is utilised in Tang Villa to evoke the boundless cosmos.
The Chinese had since ancient times worshipped the stars and believed in astrological signs. The ancients used the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper to identify directions, determine seasons and quantify good fortune. The motif of the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper is adopted for the first time in Tang Villa. The pinnacle of the hall is composed of seven large and bright stars and the layout is arranged in the shape of the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper with the other stars twinkling around them, naturally framing the vast cosmos in a fascinating and radiant manner.
In Feng Shui, the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper are the lords of heavenly phenomena, and their presence determines the tribulations in the earthly realm. Therefore, the people’s belief in the Big Dipper from a cultural standpoint, is actually a desire for a better life and the worship of the Big Dipper serves to relieve suffering in the earthly realm.
As the brightest stars in the sky, the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper have many beautiful symbolic significances. People believe that the stars in the sky represents the people on the earth and one of them must belong to them. Tang Villa uses the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper to symbolically represent the ancestors that are enshrined within, honouring them with eternal life.
As early as when primitive humans lived in caves, they created holes at the top of their cave dwellings to admit light, as a source of ventilation and up and down access. Because of its shape like a recessed well, together with algae decorative motifs, the caisson or “zaojing” literally means “algae well”. The caisson can be traced back to the Northern Wei dynasty in the Yungang Grottoes and Longmen Grottoes. After the Ming dynasty, the designs of the caisson went from simple to complex, extremely sophisticated and magnificent. During the Qing dynasty, more caisson ceilings were decorated with dragons as the central motif; as such, the caisson was also called “dragon well”.
The Seven Stars of the Big Dipper
The ancients believed that each of the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper has its own significance; the Right Star represents the heaven; the Law Star represents justice; the Fate Star represents the mundane people; the Attacking Star represents time; the Killing Star represents the center; the Critical Star represents the commandments; and the Duty Star represents the stars. According to legend, the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper holds the power of life and death in the earthly realm. In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang learns through celestial signs that his life was coming soon to an end. In order to gain longevity, he prayed to the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper to increase his lifespan.
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