One of the things that tourists typically find interesting when visiting China is the country’s architecture, particularly the highly raised door thresholds. When moving from one space to another, foreigners usually find the transition in the entryway dramatical due to the “exaggerated” thresholds. Many fail to understand the need for such high thresholds, especially folks from disability-sensitive countries like Western countries. If you’d like to be enlightened about the door thresholds in China and find out their true meaning, keep reading.
What is a threshold on a door?
A threshold is a raised area at the bottom of a door that indicates a transition from one space to another in an entryway. In China, most thresholds are 3-5 inches high, but some door thresholds can go as high as 6-12 inches. The majority of Chinese architecture, including threshold, is cultural-driven as much as it is practical-driven.
Door threshold meaning in Chinese culture
In ancient China, door thresholds weren’t simply for aesthetics. They held meaning. The purpose of these door thresholds can be divided into practical and cultural aspects. One of the practical aspects of the Chinese door threshold was that it kept small pests, rainwater, and strong winds off. Also, since people in ancient China wore loose clothes, it was easier to expose someone who entered somewhere with a weapon, as they had to lift their legs high to step over the threshold.
One cultural aspect of the door threshold in China is that it kept spirits and ghosts from entering a household, thus protecting the family. Also, door thresholds were a way of telling someone’s status, with a high threshold symbolizing a high status. The wealthy went further to cover their thresholds with metal to show off their power and wealth.
Additionally, door thresholds in China represented a boundary between a household and the outside world. Lastly, it was believed that if someone from a household passed on, door thresholds kept their spirit within their house and stopped them from wandering off.
You weren’t supposed to step on the door threshold as it represented the master’s dignity. To date, stepping on someone’s door threshold is disrespectful in China. Men had to step over it with their left foot first and women with their right foot first.
Styles Chinese door threshold
There are several Chinese door threshold styles in China; however, the most popular style is the moon gate, which symbolizes a full moon. According to the Chinese people, the moon gate represents happiness and is typically painted red to bring good fortune to the residences of the household.
Door thresholds in ancient China held essential meanings to the people, from a sense of protection and privacy to good luck to the household’s family members. Today, in China, although these meanings aren’t as strong as they used to be, the people still recognize the importance door thresholds held to their forefathers.