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Paifang (Cantonese transliteration: paaifong), also called pailou (Cantonese transliteration: paailau), is a famous traditional Chinesemarker architectural gating style as an archway.

The word Pai-fang ( ) originally was a collective term used to describe the top two levels of administrative division and subdivisions of ancient Chinese city. The largest division within a city in ancient China was a Fang (坊), equivalent to current day precinct. Each fang (坊) was enclosed by walls or fences, and the gates of these enclosure were shut and guarded every night. Each fang (坊) was further divided into several Plate or Pai (牌), which is equivalent to current day (unincorporated) community. Each pai (牌), in turn, contained an area including several hutongs. This system of urban administrative division and subdivision reached an elaborate level during Tang Dynasty, and was remained in the following dynasties. For example, during Ming Dynastymarker, Beijing was divided into a total of 36 fangs (坊). Originally, the word Paifang (牌坊) was used as a term to describe the gate of a fang (坊) and the marker for an entrance of a building complex or a town; but by the Song Dynasty Paifang (牌坊) had evolved into a purely decorative monument.
Paifang comes in a number of forms. One form involves placing wooden pillars onto stone bases, and bound together with wooden beams. This type of Paifang is always beautifully decorated, with the pillars usually painted in red, the beams decorated with intricate designs and Chinese calligraphy, and the roof covered with coloured tiles, complete with mythical beasts - just like a Chinese palace.

Another form of Paifang is in the form of true archways made of stone or bricks; the walls may be painted in white or red, or decorated with coloured tiles; the top of the archways are decorated like their wooden counterparts.

Yet another form of Paifang, built mainly on religious and burial grounds, consists of plain white stone pillars and beams, with neither roof tiles nor any coloured decoration, but feature elaborate carvings created by master masons.

Outside of Chinamarker, the Paifang has long been the symbol of Chinatowns.

In the past, "Chastity Paifangs" were given to widows who remained unmarried till death, praising what was seen as loyalty to their deceased husbands.

See also


Image:Paifang Boston Chinatown 1.jpg|Paifang entrance to Chinatown in Boston,|One of the formal entrances to Chinatown in LondonmarkerImage:Paifang.jpg|The Paifang in Chinatown in Liverpoolmarker, reputedly the largest in the world outside of Chinamarker.Image:Decorated Paifang in Summer Palace.jpg|Decorated Paifang in Summer Palacemarker

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