Bamboo Tea House, Yangzhou

– by Tao Yin –

tea house_photo 1 The Bamboo Courtyard Tea House was designed by Chinese architect Sun Wei, a partner of HWCD Associates in Shanghai. The Tea House is located at Shi Qiao Garden in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, and was finished in 2012. This project emphasizes the design concept of bringing together traditional and modern design languages.

tea house_sitetea house_plansThe Bamboo Courtyard Tea House was constructed alongside a small lake, which creates the illusion of floating on the water. It consists of several separate brick cubes covered with bamboo in vertical and horizontal strips. Actually, these cubes are not totally stand alone; they are connected with each other by the bamboo across the rooftop to create a holistic project tying various units and activities together. The arrangement of tall and lateral bamboo creates a continuous corridor from the outside walkway and helps transition from man-made to natural, from the rigid verticality of the tree line shores to the flowing movement of the lake. That bamboo-covered corridor acts both a connection and a transition semi-solid space. The result: voids, spaces, walkways and a small but solid tea house.

tea house_photo 2There is a similarity with the large concrete frames with openings of the Fengjicai Culture Center in Tianjin. There the permeable bamboo frame works as a barrier to separate the outside noise and internal tranquility; here it provides people with visual and physical connections to the outer world through the random gaps.



The traditional Jiangnan courtyard is an internal landscape space with optional inward facing pavilions, creating a free and reasonable environment that also relates to the philosophy of Chinese Taoism – other worldliness. This design was inspired by the interaction of the natural environment and Chinese tradition gardens, the spaces between cubes are used as an integral internal landscape and a viewing point for the lake. It also provides visitors a panoramic view of the tea house. The unconstrained space is in accordance with the bamboos perimeter, allowing a sense of openness and containment. Bamboo is the ideal material for this seemingly contradictory task, reflecting as it does the Chinese traditional philosophy: combining integral strength with inherent flexibility proving it with the unity of Yin and Yang. Chinese academic Guan Chuanyou captures the symbolic meaning: of bamboo as: “the idealized moral integrity of … a strong and uncompromising will (with a) graceful and elegant demeanor.”

Tea, as a symbol of Chinese culture for thousand years, is still popular now. The ceremony of tea requires quiet environment, and tea-tasting becomes an elegant fashion in modern China. Bamboo in tradition Chinese culture stands for unassuming nobility, thus the use of bamboo to construct or decorate the tea house shows the unification between material and Tea Culture.

tea house_photo 3Architectural design is not only about the layout of buildings and external-internal space, it also concerned about lighting condition. This architect wanted to facilitate the pleasures and ritual of tea-drinking by crafting of light. In the daytime, light gets through the void spaces and bamboo corridor, and reaches into different single cube blocks through the windows fixed on the external walls. The shadows on the floor and the inverted view in the lake also creates a unique pattern for the tea house.

The variation of solids and voids become more apparent when the interior lights are on in the evening and the environment seems more peaceful. It deepens the sense of tranquility. In this aspect, the bamboo Courtyard Tea House also shows the relationship that the architect wanted visitors to experience: considering nature, human space and to indulge in meditative act of tea drinking.