míngjiān 明間



  • mingjian (Pinyin without tones)
  • 明間 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 明间 (Simplified Chinese)
  • míngjiān (Pinyin)
  • ming-chien (Wade-Giles)
  • central bay (English)1
  • bright bay (English)2

Note (full)

    Literally meaning a “bright” or “open” space (Kroll 2015, 309; 196), mingjian usually refers to the central bay of a building.

    As an architectural term, the earliest use of mingjian was in two vernacular novels of the Ming dynasty —— Plum in the Golden Vase (Jinpingmei 金瓶梅) and Marriage As Retribution, Awakening the World (Xingshi yinyuan zhuan 醒世姻缘传) (Lanlingxiaoxiaosheng 1628-1644, 15.18b, Xizhousheng, late 17th century, 9.7a). Both of these novels adopted the Shandong dialect of that time, which may be the origin of the term mingjian. In the Qing dynasty, due to the great popularity of these two novels, mingjian became a common word in both official and vernacular texts. In the twentieth century, when scholars of the Yingzao xueshe 營造學社 began to study the architecture of the Qing dynasty, mingjian was inherited as a standard term.4

    In premodern architectural literature, mingjian is usually used for its derived meaning: the central bay of a building. The only descriptive definition of mingjian is given in the Yingzao fayuan 营造法原 (1959), is a rectangular unit defined by the depth of the building and the two central columns of the facade (Yao 1986,1). The literal meaning of mingjian is usually used in novels as a functional description. This causes inconsistencies in meaning because, although the central bay is often the brightest space, there can occasionally be more than one open and light-filled room, and these rooms are not necessarily symmetrically distributed around the center (Liu early 20th century, 12.5b).5


    作為建築術語最早出現於具有山東方言特色的明代世情小說 《金瓶梅》(蘭陵笑笑生 1628-1644,15.18b)與《醒世姻緣傳》中(西周生 十七世紀末, 9.7a),因此可能來源於明代的山東方言。隨著白話小説在明清時期的繁榮發展,“明間”在清代成為了廣泛普及的常用語,並被引入專業建築術語體系,為官方與民間所共用。隨著營造學社對清代建築的研究,“明间”被繼承為現代研究基本術語。4

    在建築工程相關的歷史文獻中,主要使用明間的引申義——中央一。《營造法原》(1959)給出的描述性定義為:建築平面長邊中心二與短邊所確定的平面單元(姚 1986,1);而其本義常用於小說、筆記中,作功能化的描述。本義與引申義在指代對象上不完全重合,指明亮/開敞的房時,明間可以是複數的,也不必處於建築的對稱中心(劉 二十世紀初, 12.5b)。5

Related Concepts

Works Cited

Any information without attribution has been created following the Syriaca.org editorial guidelines.

  • 1 STEINHARDT. 1991. The Mizong Hall of Qinglong Si: Space, Ritual, and Classicism in Tang Architecture, 27-50.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 2 LIU. 2016. Rule-Based Generation of Ancient Chinese Architecture from the Song Dynasty, 1-22.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 3 陳. 2010. 《營造法式》辭解, 376.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; GUO. 2002. A Visual Dictionary of Chinese Architecture, 29.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 4 蘭陵笑笑生. 1628-1644. 金瓶梅, 15.18b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 9.7a., 9.7a.
  • 5 1., 1.; 劉. EARLY 20TH CENTURY. 老殘遊記, 12.5b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

Broad Match: building frame

How to Cite This Entry

Guo Mian 郭勉 et al., “ 明間 míngjiān” in Architectura Sinica last modified November 21, 2021, https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000171.


Guo Mian 郭勉 et al., “ 明間 míngjiān.” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published June 2, 2021. https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000171.

About this Entry

Entry Title: 明間 míngjiān

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

  • Tracy Miller, editor, Architectura Sinica
  • ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净, associate editor, Architectural Terminology
  • Guo Mian 郭勉 and ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净, entry contributors, “ 明間 míngjiān

Additional Credit:

  • Initial research and revision by ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净 Guo Mian 郭勉
  • Data entry, adding notes, links and citations 2021 by HUANG Danni 黄聃婗
  • Preliminary research CMW 2021
  • Peer review by ATTCAT 2021
  • English proofreading by Aurelia Campbell Tracy Miller
  • Chinese proofreading by ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净 ZUO Lala 左拉拉
  • Website coordination, data entry, adding citations and gloss 2021 by Yuh-Fen Benda

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