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Structural Mechanism Of Southern Chinese Traditional Timber Frame Buildings

November 22, 2011

The structural mechanism of typical mortise—tenon joints of southern Chinese traditional timber frame buildings was investigated. The investigation provides a scientific basis for the repair of these ancient buildings. The research was published in SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences.2011, Vol 54(7).

The timber members of Chinese traditional timber buildings are connected with mortise—tenon joints, which are the core technology of Chinese and East Asian traditional timber buildings. Scientific knowledge of mortise—tenon joints is the key to understanding the structural mechanism of Chinese traditional timber buildings.

As connection joints, mortise—tenon joints bear the transmission and distribution of forces in timber structures while also determining the overall stability of the structures. The mortise—tenon joints of Chinese traditional timber buildings can be classified as those for: a horizontal member and horizontal member; a horizontal member and vertical member; a vertical member and vertical member; and a horizontal member and inclined member. The configuration of a mortise—tenon joint depends on the system, age and geographical area. For example, in the south of China, the column-and-tie structure is the main structure type for traditional timber buildings, and it differs from post-and-lintel construction, which is the main structure of northern traditional timber buildings.

There are four main differences in mortise—tenon joints for southern and northern traditional timber buildings. (1) As mentioned, the main structural system of northern traditional timber buildings is post-and-lintel construction, and it obviously differs from the main structural system of southern traditional timber buildings, which is the column-and-tie construction system. (2) The mortise—tenon joints of northern timber buildings are thicker and shorter than the joints of southern timber buildings. (3) In terms of configuration, the Mantou mortise—tenon joint is often used at the top of a column in the north of China, whereas a straight mortise—tenon joint is often used at the top of a column in the south of China. (4) The main style is that of an official building in the north of China, whereas the main style is that of a residential building in the south of China. Although many scholars are now researching the structural mechanisms of Chinese traditional timber buildings, there has been no research on the difference in structural mechanisms between the north and south of the country.

In the paper Experimental study on seismic characteristics of typical mortise—tenon joints of Chinese southern traditional timber frame buildings written by Dr Chun Qing from the Key Laboratory of Urban and Architectural Heritage Conservation, Ministry of Education, Southeast University, the structural mechanism of mortise—tenon joints was investigated according to differences in the structural system and geographical area. The mechanical characteristics of typical mortise—tenon joints of Chinese southern traditional timber frame buildings were researched, which provides a scientific basis for the protection and repair of southern Chinese traditional timber buildings.

Existing domestic research has mainly focused on the northern Chinese traditional timber structure. The research objects were built following the rules of construction of the Song dynasty. The experimental specimens were always coarse. Mortise—tenon joints were mainly straight mortise—tenon joints and Yanwei mortise—tenon joints. Existing overseas research has mainly focused on local traditional timber structures that obviously differ from traditional Chinese timber structures. At present, the mechanical mechanisms of Chinese southern traditional timber frame buildings based on the rules of Yingzaofayuan have not been researched.

The present work is innovative in that it is the first to investigate experimentally the mechanical characteristics of typical mortise—tenon joints of southern Chinese traditional timber frame buildings, including the Yanwei mortise—tenon joint, Shizigutou mortise—tenon joint, Ban mortise—tenon joint and Mantou mortise—tenon joint. Failure modes, hysteresis curves, skeleton curves and rotational stiffness are presented. The results provide a scientific basis for seismic research and the protection and maintenance of southern Chinese traditional timber frame buildings. This research was supported by the National Natural Science Fund Project (grant number 51 008 059).

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