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Where Did the Wood Go? Rethinking the Problematic Role of Wood in Wood-Like Mimicry

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image of Frontiers of History in China

This paper explores fangmugou (“imitating the mode of building with wood”), a comprehensive and longstanding architectural leitmotif reflective of the socio-cultural environment of China. Whether carved in stone, molded in clay, or cast in metal fangmugou continuously serves to visually confirm and ratify the significance of wood as the primary building material in Chinese architectural history. By peeling off the successive layers of distortion between model and replica, this paper uncovers the traces of wood embedded in fangmugou, and deciphers the visual and symbolic language that evolved out of the physical properties of wood, even as the final product transcends materiality by adapting to new media.


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