páifāng 牌坊



  • paifang (Pinyin without tones)1
  • 牌坊 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 牌坊 (Simplified Chinese)
  • páifāng (Pinyin)2
  • p'ai-fang (Wade-Giles)
  • memorial gateway (ATTCAT 2022) (English)
  • signboard or plaque-holding commemorative monument (English)3


    Paifang is a type of structure that functions to commemorate virtuous people and actions, markoff an area, and/or delineate space. Paifang are often erected on streets and bridges, as well as near buildings such as government offices, schools, ancestral halls, temples, and tombs.

    Although the first use of the term paifang known is from the Song Jiatai period Wuxianzhi 吳興志 (1201-1204), no specific descriptions were given (Tan 1912, 20). In Ming dynasty literature, the term began to be used widely, suggesting that paifang were constructed in great numbers during this time. Paifang were initially erected to honor scholars (Zhu 1731, 154), but gradually developed to have a variety of functions and meanings. For instance, paifang were erected to commemorate scholarly honor, filial piety, and chastity (Wang and Cheng 1488-1505,2.16b;2.14b;He 1573-1620,1.8a; Liu and Zhao 1632,17a). Paifang were also erected at government offices, schools, temples and tombs to increase the buildings’ sense of importance (He 1573-1620,1.6a; Wang and Cheng 1488-1505,2.17b; Zheng ca.1580-1640, 7.8b). Finally, paifang were established along roads and bridges to demarcate crossroads and basic administrative unit (Wang and Cheng 1488-1505,2.17b). The term paifang was more commonly used in Qing dynasty literature than that of the Ming dynasty. According to Zhongguo jiben gujiku 中國基本古籍庫, there were 1311 records of paifang in 371 books from the Qing dynasty, while only 527 records are extant from the 216 books in the Ming dynasty. 4

    Paifang adopt various forms. Usually, paifang are made of stone, wood or brick, are composed of two or more pillars connected by tie beams, and are covered by roofs called lou 樓. The name of each paifang and the reason for its establishment were often inscribed on a plaque affixed to the tie beam and were sometimes inscribed directly onto the tie beam itself. The size of paifang varied, depending on their location.


    “牌坊”一詞雖最早見于宋代吳縣志 (嘉泰 1201-1204)(談 1912, 20),但未见相關具体描述,明代文獻中才開始大量使用。明代,牌坊最初為旌表進士而立(朱 1731, 154),而後逐漸具備了豐富的功能和含義:(1)牌坊可因科名、功名、孝義、貞節等立,以彰顯優崇、表厥宅裡;(王和程 1488-1505,2.16b;2.14b;何 1573-1620,1.8a; 劉和趙 1632,17a)(2)牌坊可因公署、祠廟、寺觀、陵墓等立,使人觀瞻而畏敬;(何 1573-1620,1.6a; 王和程 1488-1505,2.17b; 鄭 ca.1580-1640, 7.8b)(3)牌坊可因街巷、道橋等立,以指示大路交衢、坊廂字鋪。(王和程 1488-1505,2.17b) 根據在《中國基本古籍庫》中的檢索,“牌坊”一词在清代文獻中記載更為豐富。 4


Works Cited

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

  • 1 GUO. 2002. A Visual Dictionary of Chinese Architecture, 61.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 2 漢語大詞典編纂処. 2011. 漢語大詞典, accessed June 12, 2022.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 3 KROLL. 2016. A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, accessed May 11, 2023.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 4 談. 1912—1949. 嘉泰吳興誌, 20.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 朱. 1731. 雍正直隸完縣誌, 154.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 王. 1488-1505. 弘治句容縣誌, 2.17b; 2.16b; 2.14b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 何. 1573-1620. 萬曆丹徒縣誌, 1.8a; 1.6a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 劉. 1632. 崇禎廣昌縣誌, 17a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 鄭. 不详. 玉麈新譚, 7.8b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

How to Cite This Entry

SUN Xiaoqian 孙晓倩 et al., “ 牌坊 páifāng” in Architectura Sinica last modified May 31, 2023, https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000212.


SUN Xiaoqian 孙晓倩 et al., “ 牌坊 páifāng.” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published May 30, 2022. https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000212.

About this Entry

Entry Title: 牌坊 páifāng

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

  • Tracy Miller, editor, Architectura Sinica
  • ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净, associate editor, Architectural Terminology
  • SUN Xiaoqian 孙晓倩 and LIN Xingyu 林星雨, entry contributors, “ 牌坊 páifāng

Additional Credit:

  • Website coordination by Yuh-Fen Benda
  • Initial research and revision by LIN Xingyu 林星雨 CMW M22
  • Data entry by CHEN Zhuo 陈卓
  • Entry of revised data and links by LI Zhixian 李知賢

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