huábiǎo 華表


  • huabiao (Pinyin without tones)
  • 華表 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 华表 (Simplified Chinese)
  • huábiǎo (Pinyin)1
  • hua-piao (Wade-Giles)
  • illustrious markers (lit.) (English)1
  • monumental column (English)2

Note (full)

    Meaning, literally, illustrious marker or memorial (Kroll 2015, 167, 23), huabiao originated as wooden or stone pillars whose function was to show directions or display information. Later, huabiao also helped emphasize the central axis or the central portion of an architectural complex.3

    According to earlier texts quoted by the Tang commentator Sima Zhen (司馬貞, 679-732) in his Shiji suoyin 史記索隱, a huabiao (or a pair of huabiao) was a type of signpost or guidepost with a crosspiece joined through the upper part of the pillar. He quoted Cui Bao 崔豹 (ca. 381-450) who suggested that because of similarities in pronunciation in the Chen and Chu regions, huabiao 華表 may have also been written "huanbiao 桓表" or "hebiao 和表" (Sima 1959, 10.423-424; Cui 1936). Huabiao-like structures can be seen in visual material, especially in Song and Yuan paintings, such as Zhang Zeduan's "Jinmingchi zhengbiao tu 金明池爭標圖" and Wang Zhengpeng's "Longchi jingdu tujuan 龍池競渡圖卷," where a characteristic feature was a crosspiece joined through the upper part of the pillar. After the Song dynasty, we also begin to see crouching animal sculptures on the top of huabiao.

    Our earliest examples of the term huabiao are from the Han dynasty, where it was used as a standard or banner for commemorating good deeds or a placard for publicizing criminal offenses ("jinshan zhijing, feibang zhimu 進善之旌, 誹謗之木") (Sima 1959, 10.423-24). Before the Song and Yuan dynasties, huabiao were usually made of wood and the decoration methods of timber huabiao were documented in the Yingzao fashi (Li 2009, 25.7a, 28.6b). After the Jin and Yuan dynasties, wooden huabiao were gradually replaced with stone.4

    The usage of the term huabiao was not consistent between the Han and Qing dynasties. Huabiao were mainly located at the important traffic nodes, such as an ancient precinct or courier station (tingyou 亭郵), the intersections of main roads, and at the two ends of a bridge (Xu 2017, 2.50; Cui 1936), but from the Ming dynasty this type of usage gradually disappeared. After the Yuan dynasty, huabiao could also be erected in other places, such as the mausoleums of the emperor and high-level nobles, Confucian temples, and at ancient altars.5

    Within both classical and contemporary literature, the term huabiao does not necessarily refer to a structure with all the features mentioned above, but can have other meanings. For example, huabiao can refer to the stone pillars located on the both sides of a "spirit path" (shendao 神道) in the Southern Dynasties, the wangzhu 望柱 after the Song dynasty, the stone pen-shape structure (shibi 石筆) in the southern and southwestern China, and even a paifang 牌坊 memorial gateway.

    華表最早是具有指示方向,標識信息,標記地點等功能的木柱或者石柱,而後還起到了在建築群中强調主要軸綫,突出建築主體部分的作用。由南朝人所引早期文獻判斷,“華”與“桓”、“和”可能在陈楚之地因发音相近而被混用,華表即柱頂部有木貫穿木柱的“桓表”(司馬 1959,10. 423-424)。這一形象在繪畫中也有所見(如張擇端的《金明池爭標圖》,王振鵬的《龍池競渡圖卷》等)。此後華表始終保持了柱頂部有贯穿柱身的板状构件的基本特征。宋及以後的華表頂部還有蹲獸,常在相關場合成對或四植對稱放置。3

    “華表”一詞最早出现于漢代文獻。華表傳說起源於上古時之“誹謗之木”,宋元以前華表也多由木製,北宋營造法式》(李 2009,25.7a,28.6b)中就對木製華表的裝飾方法有所記載。而、元時,石製華表出現并且逐渐取代了木質華表。4

    自漢至,華表的應用場合并非一成不變,自漢代起,華表主要设置于邮亭 、大路交衢、橋頭等交通節點位置 (許 2017,vol.2, 50;古今注 1936),這一做法至明代才逐漸消失。明以降帝王以及高等級貴族陵墓、文廟、州學、社稷壇等処亦設置有華表。5


Related concepts

Works Cited

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

  • 1 KROLL. 2015. A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, 167, 23.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 2 GUO. 2002. A Visual Dictionary of Chinese Architecture, 42.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 3 KROLL. 2015. A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, 167, 23.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 崔. 1936. 古今注, [TGM notes also: The Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 version of Cui Bao's Gujinzhu 古今注 6.9a also includes a connection between the shape of the huabiao and that of a flower (hua 花) or wellsweep/shadoof (jiegao 桔槔) (Cui 1936)].Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 司馬. 1959 (1982 REPRINT). 史記, 423-424.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 4 司馬. 1959 (1982 REPRINT). 史記, 10.423-424.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 李. 2009. 營造法式 (1103; 故宫藏抄本), 25.7a, 28.6b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 5 許. 2017. 宋本說文解字, 50.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

How to Cite This Entry

SUN Xiaoqian 孫曉倩 et al., “ 華表 huábiǎo” in Architectura Sinica last modified November 11, 2021,


SUN Xiaoqian 孫曉倩 et al., “ 華表 huábiǎo.” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published April 8, 2021.

About this Entry

Entry Title: 華表 huábiǎo

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  • Tracy Miller, editor, Architectura Sinica
  • ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净, associate editor, Architectural Terminology
  • SUN Xiaoqian 孫曉倩 and LIU Shuo 劉碩, entry contributors, “ 華表 huábiǎo

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