simple village house design picture,What are the differences between Japanese, Korean, and Chinese architecture?

Simple home design in village single floor

Brief IntroductionThe architecture of these three countries is a fascinating topic, worthy of considerable study and explanation.

While their similarities are perhaps more obvious, each country does have differences from one another, both minute and extreme.

While the architecture of East Asia as a whole is generally assumed have originated from China and spread from there, Korea and Japan both had their own indigenous styles which they incorporated foreign styles into.

That assumption also does not take into account of influences from outside of East Asia found in all three countries.

,For this answer, I will be looking at the common pre-modern architecture of each country.

By that, I mean I will be looking at architectural features that existed before the 19th century (before heavy western influence) that were widespread.

Unfortunately, however, I will not be able to discuss all the regional variations found in each country partly because of the considerable time that would take, but also because I canu2019t claim to be familiar with all regional styles in each country.

This will come at the detriment of the examinations of architecture found in China the most, as it is the most regionally diverse of the three.

But I will do my best.

,Finally, I cannot discuss much on architecture that is non-extant in each country, which by extension means I wonu2019t be discussing the evolution of architecture in each country to great extent.

For China, I will be looking at the Qing, Ming, and Tang dynasties for the most part.

For Korea, the Joseon dynasty will get the most attention, with some examinations of the Goryeo dynasty and Three-Kingdoms period as well.

For Japan, I will primarily be focusing on the Edo, Azuchi-Momoyama, and Muromachi periods, though I may make some references to the much earlier Nara and Heian periods, to lessor extents.

,Geographic ConsiderationsEast Asia has a vast variety of environments, and it would be a disservice to not discuss them briefly to understand their impact on architecture.

While China inarguable possesses the widest range of diverse environments, what is often considered quintessential Chinese civilization was based in the Central Plains, or Zhongyuan region, which is defined by large alluvial plains that allowed for large scale agricultural.

Though the region is also bordered by significant mountain ranges, most of the nations human population has resided in these plains, which in turn had the strongest influence on their architectural development.

For this reason, earth and brickwork are significant in Chinau2019s architectural history.

,Korea, on the other hand, is a very mountainous region, providing a high availability of timber and very rich granite deposits.

Though large cities were often based in plains or river valleys (true enough for any civilization), stone and woodworks were more definitive for their national architecture.

,Japan is somewhat similar to Korea in its environment, being very mountainous with larger settlements being based in plains and valleys.

Unfortunately, being so close to a tectonic boundary makes Japan considerably less geologically stable than Korea or China.

Therefore, Japanu2019s architecture is defined primarily on woodworks which were more suited to standing up to frequent earthquake activity.

,Civilian ArchitectureCivilian architecture came in many different styles in China, depending on time period and region, varying in so many ways, that itu2019s actually quite difficult to identity universal features.

Out of the three countries, Korea may have been the most uniform in civilian architecture, at least during the Joseon dynasty, with Japan having a bit more regional variations due to having more ethnic groups that remained independent from the central state before the modern period.

China, however, is unquestionably the most diverse.

,Chinese residences could have been made of various types of material, from rammed earth, baked bricks, wood, or any combination of these or other local materials.

Baked brick, however, seems to be most unique to China as they saw very limited use in Korea and virtually no use in Japan.

Chinau2019s wide use of brick, particularly in later dynasties, likely was due to the significant growth in its cities, which were based in plains with few trees relative to their population.

Brick architecture also allowed buildings to be much larger due to the increased load bearing capacity.

Therefore, it was not uncommon for civilians to live in multistoried homes and prominent families to live in fairly sophisticated compounds, particularly in large cities.

Depending on the region, however, you could still find more simple homes using more wooden construction and even thatched roofs, even into the late Qing dynasty.

,In terms of design, the most significant layout many Chinese homes utilized was that of the siheyuan, at least within cities.

Usually oriented in accordance to feng shui principals, these homes usually consisted of several buildings arrange so they created an enclosed courtyard.

The size and complexity of the siheyuan greatly depended on the wealth, size, and status of the family, with some even resembling small palaces.

,A standard layout for a siheyuan style home.

But this wasnu2019t the only form of residential architecture present in China as there were other regional preferences as well.

One of the most interesting, in my opinion is the tulou, a round or square residential complex that was designed to hold multiple families in a rather egalitarian, rather than hierarchal, arrangement.

Usually at least three stories high, these large round structures had almost no windows on the outside (with exceptions only made of the highest floors) and seemed to be designed with an emphasis on defense.

This would make sense as these residences appear to have been built in relatively smaller/more rural communities, mostly in Chinau2019s southern regions.

,A cluster of tulous.

In Northern China, you can find yaodongs, which are essentially earthen dwellings carved out of hillsides or built underground.

This style was ideal for climate control, as they managed to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winters with little need of a heating system.

There are several styles of yaodongs, but the sunken style seems most similar to other Chinese civilian architecture as it makes use of a central courtyard, which is the only portion of the structure visible from the ground.

,A cluster of yaodongs.

Looking at these examples of Chinese homes, a consistent feature we see is the inclusion of an enclose courtyard, suggesting an appreciation for open spaces coupled with the need for being protected by barriers.

,In Korea, the hanok was the definitive home, at least during the Josen dynasty.

These buildings utilized wooden frame construction with non-load bearing walls (similar to what you might see in palace architecture) that were made of earthen materials, similar to wattle and daub, with doors and windows of the paper and lattice style.

From here, you could break the hanok down into three categories, giwajib (tile-roof house), neowajib (bark shingle house) and chogajib (thatched roof house).

Giwajib were reserved primarily for those of the upper class.

Beyond using roof tiles, they also differed in that they usually sat on an elevated cut stone/brick base, though the giwajib of more impoverished members of the upper class could be built on a platform of packed earth and unfinished stone.

Neowajib were a bit more distinguished from the other two not only due to itu2019s use of wood bark for roofing tiles, but also in that they would build some walls of wood planks rather than earth and plaster.

You might find these homes in more rural and mountainous areas.

And finally the chogajib was the most common type of home for anyone not of the upper or middle class.

Though they also could be built on a platform of packed earth and uncut stone, the typically were not.

Notably, it was very uncommon to see multistoried homes in Korea during the Joseon dynasty, even in royal palaces.

Some attribute this to the strict Neo-Confucian ideology, which may have favored single storied homes as more conservative and humble.

But perhaps a more practical reason is the heating system most Korean homes employed.

This isnu2019t to say multistoried buildings werenu2019t used, but usually not as homes.

,The three types of Hanoks.

The reason why many Korean homes were built on elevated platforms was due to the ondol, a floor heating system.

Though not found in all homes, it is a uniquely Korean feature.

The ondol system typically had the kitchen in a room on the outside of the house at ground level.

The smoke from the ovens would feed into the platform that the rest of the house sat upon, running beneath the floor and exit out a chimney on the other side.

This would heat one or several rooms.

Perhaps obviously, this could only work for a single floor, this if a building had a second floor, they would have to make use of an entirely separate heating system.

Although now utilizing electricity, floor-heating systems are still very popular in Korea, even in tall apartment buildings.

,Diagram of how the ondol heating system worked.

Japanese civilian housing is probably the one that did not utilize any stone or brickwork at all.

This was likely due to the geological instability of the country.

For this reason, wood frame houses with non-loadbearing walls were the most common form of construction, as they typically did a better job at standing up to earthquakes than buildings that consisted of ridged stone or earthworks.

Unlike Korea, however, multistoried homes were not uncommon in Japan, particularly in large cities starting in the Edo period.

These homes were called u201cmachiyau201d (townhouse), and typically consisted of two floors, with the ground floor acting as a shop space.

In these buildings, earthen materials were used to an extent on the second and third (if it had one) floors, though usually as a form of insulation rather than framework.

,An example of preserved machiya homes, which were well suited for urban living.

Beyond the cities in the north areas, minka were commonly used.

This is sort of an umbrella term as minka could come in varying styles or designs such as gassho style and honmune.

These homes were were more typical in the rural farming class and usually featured very steep, thatched roofs to stand up to heavy snowfall.

Due to the extreme slope of the roof, the building itself could have up to three separate floors.

The building materials often varied depending on the available resources of the region.

,A village of preserved minka, with a rice paddy in the foreground.

As a final note on civilian architecture, Chinese homes typically consisted of single purpose rooms, such as bedrooms, dinning rooms, studies, reception rooms, and so on.

In Korea and Japan, however, both countries generally designed their buildings to have rooms that were multipurpose, meaning a bedroom could act as a dinning room and/or study.

This was also one of the reasons why in both countries, it was more important to remove ones shoes before entering a home and why most utilized floor mattresses, which could be easily moved and stored when not in use, rather than elevated bed frames.

Japan even took things a step further by utilizing shoji (sliding doors made of wood lattice and rice paper) to act as room dividers rather than permanent walls.

By using them as room dividers, it allowed the owners to merge several rooms into a single larger space, depending on need, and vice versa.

Shoji often even made up the exterior of many Japanese homes.

While China and Korea both also made use of sliding doors in similar ways as well, their use was offset by the more prominent use of hinged doors, which wasnu2019t as common in Japan.

,PalacesPalaces in China have typically been enormous and similarly organized throughout all of its dynasties.

Though most may be astonished at the enormity of Ming/Qingu2019s Forbidden City, the palaces of previous Chinese dynasties would have dwarfed this modern marvel.

With that being said, Chinese palaces were always considerably larger in scale compared to that of Koreau2019s and Japans.

This makes sense as China has always had a significantly larger population, and therefore a much larger labor force and economy to draw from.

What would take China decades to build would likely take the other two centuries.

,If you were to look at the palaces of all three countries, one of the first things you might notice is the color schemes.

In almost all Chinese palaces, an overwhelming use of red is used for the buildings (and even walls), which are all adorned with gold roof tiles.

This is not something you would see in either Korea or Japan.

Beyond the colors, the main palace used in Chinese dynasties all followed a standard principal layout.

The main gate would always be to the South, leading to the outer court (main administrative buildings), with the inner court (the residence and leisure area of the emperor/king and his family and servants) usually making up the northern half of the palace.

This was generally in accordance to Feng Shui theory.

This layout, however, was not always followed for secondary palaces that acted as imperial retreats or residences for the extended family of the Emperor.

,The Forbidden City in modern Beijing, a riot of reds and golds.

The layout of the Forbidden City, which followed typical Chinese palatial trends that focused on symmetry, north-south alignment, and the placement of important buildings on or near the central axis.

The main palace of the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung, and some secondary palaces, utilized the same standard layout as Chinese palaces.

Korean palatial color scheme, and a few other elements, however, remained fairly unique.

Red was used, but was mainly reserved for gates, pavilions, and supportive pillars.

Pinks, greens and whites were also heavily utilized in palace color schemes, giving them a greater sense of balance.

Koreans also utilized a unique detailing on palatial and religious buildings called dancheong, which is believed to predate Chinese influence.

This detailing can come in several different styles, all with a unique, though usually religious/spiritual, purpose.

,A rendering of what Gyeongbokgung looked like at its largest extent, about 60% the size of the Forbidden City.

Notice the emphasis on the central axis, similar to Chinese palaces.

The remains of Gyeongbokgung today, estimated to be about only 40% of what it once was.

Korean dancheong, which adorned all palaces and most temples.

While Japanese palaces were generally based on Chinese palaces in terms of design, they were different in several fundamental ways.

Early Japanese palaces usually rectangular in shape and walled off with several separate, walled compounds within, such as the official compound (administrative center) residential compound (home of the Imperial family) and a reception compound (place to meet foreign envoys) placed in the center.

But as central imperial authority collapsed by the early Heian period, later palaces typically only consisted of several residential compounds with either no administrative section or a seldom-used administrative section.

These residential compounds, however, did typically feature an audience hall, for ceremonial purposes.

,A model of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Notice that the arrangement placed less emphasis central axis or symmetry, compared to its two neighbors.

While Chinese and Korean palatial audience halls usually sat upon multi tiered stone platforms (three tiered in China, two tiered in Korea), this design feature was abandoned in Japan following the Nara period.

Furthermore, while Chinese and Korean palatial buildings often made use of pent-roofs to give the appearance of multi-storied buildings, Japanese palaces generally did not.

,The audience halls of each nations main palace used during their final premodern periods.

In terms of color scheme, most Japanese palaces utilized red and white for main buildings, though most other buildings usually utilized the natural colors of the wood used, as in most Japanese architecture.

Overall, I believe the relative simplicity of Japanese palaces was likely due to the lack of central authority that the Imperial family possessed through much of Japans history, remaining a symbolic power more than anything else, though a stronger appreciation for natural colors might have been a factor as well.

I should note, however, that outside of their palaces, the color red was featured prominently in some Japanese temples.

,Rooftop ArchitectureBack in my college days, I had a professor who once claimed she could identify which country a traditional building belonged to just by looking at its roof alone.

I assumed she was exaggerating a bit, but when you actually get down to it, tiled roofs in Asia do have some distinctions from country to country, and I do think it is worth mentioning.

,For example Chinese buildings have been known to utilize roof decorations more prominently, sometimes to flamboyant extremes.

But in terms of shape, tiled roofs usually had one of two common shapes.

The bottom ridge would either be completely flat from end to end or relatedly flat in the center and suddenly curving up at the ends, the extent being anywhere from moderate to extreme.

Also, hipped and hip-and-gable roofs were reserved exclusively for imperial or official buildings, with most other buildings only having a slope on two sides.

In Korea on the other hand, hip-and-gable roofs seemed to be used for almost all roof tiled buildings, with hipped roofs used for large gates.

Japan was similar to Korea in this regard initially, though also utilized A-framed roofs and later adopted gable roofs as well.

,An example of the extreme curve found on some Chinese roofs.

The other extreme in China where there is almost no visible curve to the bottom ridge.

In Korea, tiled roofs are a bit more uniform in shape.

Their bottom ridge, called the cheoma, has a gradual but consistent swoop from end to end (those sometimes flat in the center depending on the building size) for just about all buildings, whether it was on gates, pavilions, halls, or just general residences.

The design of the cheoma is meant to provide sufficient coverage from the elements while letting in optimal light.

,The main hall of Nakseonjae,which feature the subtle but consistent choema, typical of Korean roofs.

Japanese roofs are a bit like Chinese ones in terms of bottom ridge shapes (either completely flat or a moderate but abrupt curve at the corners), but compared to the other two countries, their roofs are often more steep and are more visually dominant.

At times, the roof alone on Japanese buildings seemed to equal about half the size of the entire building.

This was likely due to the more frequent torrential rains and heavy snows Japan experiences, which likely necessitated steeper roofs to keep the rain and snowfall off.

In this regard, Japan made use of another architectural feature that I have not found in either China or Korea: the noyane, or hidden roof.

As I mentioned, Japan receives more heavy rainfall but also often used shoji for their exteriors, and as shoji were usually made of rice paper, they werenu2019t very water resistant.

To this end, Japanese roofs usually had wider eaves in order to project rain even further away from the structure.

Noyane were designed to accommodate these wider eaves and, generally, the steeper nature of the main roof as well.

,An example of the extreme slope of some Japanese rooftops, making it one of the most visually dominant features of the building.

A cutaway diagram of a noyane, which generally would not be very visible is its english name suggests.

All three nations utilize similar types roof effigies for various reasons (warding off fires, evil spirits, etc.

) Japan does have two types of ornaments exclusive to their country: chigi and katsuogi, both of which are only found in Shinto architecture.

Iu2019m not sure of the symbolic value of either, both of which predate Chinese influence.

Most believe it they once had a practical function and become symbolic only after the arrival of Buddhism influence from Korean and China.

But probably the most iconic, definitively Japanese element to roofing structures is the karahafu.

This is feature, dating back to Kamakura period, adds an upwards curve to the center of the edge of the roof and could be found on castles, gates, temples, and basically any other structures meant to communicate prestige.

,Chigi (the vertical finials on the ends) and katsuogi (the short horizontal logs along the top) adorned roof.

A gate utilizing a karahafu roof, a feature unique to JapanKorea also had unique rooftop features that were found on palatial/government buildings and gates that you wouldnu2019t see in either China or Japan.

Go to any palace in Korea, and something youu2019ll see on many rooftops is a contrasting white ridge along the top of the roof.

While Chinese and Japanese roofs also have this same physical ridge on many of their buildings, they are usually the same color as the roof tiles.

Itu2019s believed this white ridge on Korean buildings is meant to be symbolic of a dragon; the symbol of the king himself.

Interestingly, the center horizontal portion of this ridge is entirely absent above any buildings that act as the king or queens sleeping quarters.

Itu2019s been hypothesized that the reason for the absence of the central ridge in these cases is because itu2019s believed that one dragon (the ridge of the roof in this case) should not rest above of another dragon (the king).

,The kings sleeping quarters in Gyeongbokgung.

Notice no white ridge along the center in contrast to the other buildings in the background.

Pagoda ArchitecturePagodas are a result of foreign influence for all three countries, originating from pyramid style Indian stupas.

East Asian pagodas as we know them are likely a blend of Indian stupa influence and early Chinese secular towers, perhaps from the Han dynasty.

While generally thought of as towers, the purpose of a pagoda was originally to act as a Buddhist reliquary, (a place to store holy relics or remains).

Thus while appearing multistoried, many were hollow with a single story.

,Chinese initially began building their pagodas from wood, but shifted to brick and stone construction during the Sui dynasty.

From the Tang dynasty on, the brick and stone pagodas increase dramatically in scale and were generally the largest pagodau2019s in East Asia from that point on.

Unfortunately, no early wooden pagodas exist any longer, and later ones do not deviate too much from their stone and brick counterparts in terms of design.

Pagodas of stone/brick in a square shape tend to have only a relatively moderate taper in tiers from top to bottom with very shallow eaves.

The most common shaped Chinese pagoda, however, is either hexagonal or octagonal with consistently sized tiers (no or very little taper).

,Xumi Pagoda, a good example of square brick styles in China.

Pagoda of Fogong Temple, the oldest surviving wooden pagoda in China, built during the Liao Dynasty.

The pagoda forest of Shaolin Temple, which features pagodas built from the Tang dynasty all the way to the Qing dynasty.

Most Korean pagodas were built from wood with beams cut to interlock rather than nailed together.

Pagodas were built primarily during the Three Kingdoms, Later Silla, and Goryeo dynasty (over one thousand years ago).

But due to heavy destruction during invasions by the Mongols in the 13th century and Japanese in the 16th century, and later suppression of Buddhism by the Joseon dynasty itself, very few pagodas in Korea have survived.

From historical records and archeological remains, however, they were very similar to early Japanese pagodas, being square in shape in with large, tiled eaves.

Compared to their Japanese counterparts, however, itu2019s been surmised that Korean wooden pagodau2019s were considerably larger.

The now destroyed Hwangnyongsa was recorded to be seven bays wide and eighty meters tall, believed to be the tallest structure in East Asia at the time of its completion.

As early Korean stone pagodau2019s followed similar design features, wooden pagodau2019s likely tapered with each tier, more so than their Chinese counterparts.

,A scaled model of what Hwangnyongsa likely looked like.

Palsangjeon, one of the very few wooden pagodas left in Korea.

Due to having abundant granite reserves, stone pagodas were also very popular in most Korean kingdoms as well.

Early ones were large enough to act as worship halls, though only two have partially survived.

They were, however, considerably shorter Chinese stone and brick pagodas, and only very few were built.

The most common stone pagoda style is what I call u201cmonumentu201d style.

Generally only being 15 meters in height or less, this style generally did not have any interior space (thus, not an actual building), but were highly decorative and did still maintain their function as reliquaries.

This particular style was built from the Three Kingdoms through the Joseon period.

,The Bunhwangsa, built by Silla at the end of the Three Kingdoms periods.

One of two surviving large stone pagodas in Korea, partially destroyed by an earthquake.

Dabotab (to the left) and Soekgatab (to the right), two prime examples of what I call u201cmonument styleu201d pagodas, found in Bulkuksa Temple.

Japan, however, built pagodas almost exclusively from wood as they had more stability during earthquakes.

As I mentioned, itu2019s believed that early Japanese pagodas were very similar to Korean ones, primarily that of Kingdom of Baekje, as Buddhist influence was introduced to Japan through Korea.

That being said, however, Japanese wooden pagodas do differ and have some original styles and features.

Universally square in shape, they were shorter than their historical contemporaries.

Somewhat different from those found in Korea, the eaves of Japanese pagodau2019s were substantial.

This had the effect of making the eaves/roof more visually prominent, as seen in other aspects of Japanese architecture.

Furthermore, unlike Korean pagodas which eaves always tapered with tier, some Japanese pagodau2019s feature eaves that had that had little or no taper at all.

,The Horyu-ji pagoda, built around 600 C.


Some records claim it was actually built by architects from the Korean kingdom of Baekje, and indeed the tapered silhouette of the eaves seem very similar to that of Korean pagodau2019s.

Yakushi-ji Eastern pagoda, featuring pent roofs below the main eaves, to give the appearance that the structure has more levels than it actually does.

A tahoto wooden pagoda, which uses a square bottom tier but round upper tier, a style unique to Japan.

Japan also did make some stone pagodas as well, though they were often smaller than the ones in Korea and never had any usable space or functioned as reliquaries.

Instead, they more often functioned as tomb or monument markers.

Gorinto style stone pagodas had some unique features relative to Korea as they utilized spherical and pyramidal shapes in their designs.

,A gorinto style stone pagoda on top of Mimizuka Hill.

Fun fact: the mound is a burial site for ears and noses cut off from Korean corpses by Japanese soldiers during Hideyoshiu2019s invasion.

FortificationsChinese fortifications were based on walls.

With its largest cities located in large plains, most had very few natural barriers.

Thus China mastered creating large artificial barriers out of necessity.

Just about all large cities in China were surrounded by a city wall, constructed either of rammed earth, brick, stone, or some combination of two or three.

Walls could range in thickness from a few meters wide to being over a dozen meters in width.

Very similar to the medieval fortifications of Europe, Chinese walls typically were adorned with battlements to provide cover for archers or guards posted on the parapets, and sometimes embrasures as well.

Capital cities often had an inner wall as well, separating the administrative center of the city from the rest, with another walled palace within.

City walls also often had guard towers built of the same material as the wall itself (rammed earth or brick usually), often placed at regular intervals.

Gatehouses were similar, but usually more massive than the watchtowers,The walls of Pingyao, a prime surviving example of Chinese city walls, built during the Ming dynasty.

Remains of Nanjing City Wall, with the cutaway showing how thick Chinese city walls could be.

The arrow tower of Zhengyangmen, the gate for Bejings inner city wall.

Of course, China also built defensive walls along prominent borders as well, usually during periods of multiple Chinese kingdoms vying for power (Warring States, Three Kingdoms, and Five Dynasties Ten Kingdoms periods).

The Great Wall of China is the most famous example, itself being originally constructed by connecting separate walls the were built during the Warring States period.

,An original section of the Great Wall of China (near the western terminus) that was not restored during the Ming Dynasty.

A good example of rammed earth walls that were used in much earlier periods of Chinau2019s history.

Similar to China, most major Korean cities were walled, with examples being Hanyang (part of modern Seoul) Deonyang (part of modern Busan), Pyeongyang, and Kaesong.

Korean city walls were built almost exclusively from stone and were considerably smaller than Chinese counterparts, though the earlier kingdom of Baekje did seem to use earthen walls as well.

The top portions of the wall were adorned with long battlements with embrasures.

Some have surmised, however, that city walls in Korea were also meant to keep out local wild life (Korea once had a large tiger population) and control/monitor traffic coming into the cities than they were to act as a first line of defense.

More often than not, these walls were built according to the cities topography, making great use of any natural inclines to create retaining walls or make the approach to the walls more difficult.

Also similar to China, Korea also used to build regional walls to help prevent and control the flow of invasions.

The gatehouses for Korean walls all followed similar design.

The gate itself would pass through a large stone base that had with either a single story or double story pavilion made of wood above to act as an watch/archer tower.

,A preserved section of Seoul City Wall, which completed encircled the capital of Hanyang.

A photo of Namdaemun, Koreau2019s largest gate at the end of the Joseon dynasty.

Heunginjimun, one of Hanyangs eight gates, it features a rare barbican like outer wall.

Mountain fortresses, however, were really the definitive type of fortification for Korea.

The heavy abundance of mountains on the Korean peninsula has long acted as a natural defense for Koreans against foreign incursions.

Originally developed by the kingdom of Goguryeo during the Three Kingdoms Era, mountain fortresses were soon adopted by its rivals, Silla and Baekje, with succeeding dynasties continuing the tradition ever since.

Earlier mountain fortresses utilized fairly thick walls (varying between 2 to 5 meters) made of stone brick that were usually placed at the top of a steep incline.

Later dynasties appear to make more prominent use of retaining walls, though they were generally thinner than their earlier counterparts.

Korean fortresses often covered enormous areas that could contain villages to house a relatively large amount of people when the cities were evacuated.

Namsanseong is one of the most famous as it has survived to present day and was generally the fortresses the King would use when the capital was under siege.

For that reason, Namsanseong itself even had a small palace within it for the king to administer affairs from.

,The remains of the Samnyeon Mountain Fortress, built during the Silla Dynasty.

A map of Namsan Fortress, more akin to a walled city situated on top of a mountain.

For Japan, fortifications are really where this nation gets a chance to shine.

Japanese castles are arguably the countries most famous structures and are the most unique relative to its neighbors.

Japanese castles also are unique compared to other buildings within the country as it breaks some conventions in its construction, particularly in that they heavily utilize stonework and earthwork.

Unlike Chinese and Korean fortifications, which were designed primarily to protect the populous of large communities, Japanese castles were designed primarily for the regional lords and their retainers as well as acting as a symbol of their power and wealth.

This was largely due to the prolonged absence of centralization in Japanese administration.

,Interestingly, early Japanese castles seemed to imitate Korean mountain fortresses, though this form failed to gain popularity or died out early due to the lack of need of them as Japan rarely faced foreign invasions.

Classical Japanese castles were more or less a product of the Sengoku, or Warring u201cStates,u201d period in which the regional lords were all vying for dominance over one another.

,Himeji Castle, one of the most striking and impressive castles in Japan and, arguably, the world.

Japanese castles were always elevated above their surroundings.

Though early castles were initially built on mountains, like in Korea, later ones were built in lower lands to help secure more strategic locations.

Such castles were generally built on top of large elevated bases of rammed earth with large stone retaining walls.

Though natural hills were incorporated in the bases whenever possible, some castles required completely man-made basses, which were smaller and thus often had surrounding moat to compensate.

In terms of layout, there was no uniform style as the builders instead attempted to make the approach from the main gate to the central keep as complicated as possible.

Many castles consisted of several baileys (enclose courtyards) that were separated by walls and gates.

Sometimes the baileys were concentric with the keep at its center.

,Matsumoto Castle, an example of a castle built on flatlands, with an fully artificial base and moat to supplement the relatively low hight of its walls.

Despite the stone bases, however, all structures and walls within the castle itself were still made of wood.

To help protect from fires, buildings were coated in plaster, which is why Japanese castles are mostly white.

Outer walls often had incorporate openings of various shapes, called sama, for archers and gunners.

Along the walls of the buildings, ishi-otoshi were often utilized, which were openings that protruded out from the wall so boulders or boiling water could be dropped on those below.

Interestingly, however, was that Japanese fortifications did not utilize any form of battlements at all.

,An example of ishi-otoshi (corner of the building in the forefront)The square and triangular sama along a castle wall, for arrow and gunfire.

Beyond its castles, other forms of fortifications did not appear to be widespread in Japan.

Defensive walls did not protect major cities and there appears to be an absence of any defensive measures in place for the civilian population at large.

This was likely due to the fact that foreign invasions were extremely rare and small scale in Japan, therefore there was little need to invest in such defenses.

,End NoteI do not claim that this answer covers all the architectural differences of these three countries, but these are the ones I know about or believe are the most prominent.

You could probably write entire books on this subject, and there likely are, but this has been my opinion on what the main differences in traditional architecture were between China, Korea, and Japan.

If youu2019ve read all the way through to this point, then thank you for sticking with me (this answer is 9 pages long on my word processor before adding images).

Hope you enjoyed and learned something.