The architectural studies of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties conventionally use ancient books, philology, and archaeological sites as historical materials for the study of traditional architecture. Most of the information from the Shang Dynasty to the Han Dynasty came from archaeological sites, tombs, portrait stones, portrait bricks and paintings on utensils. The physical construction of the Zhou Dynasty has not been preserved. Although some remains are found, the upper structure and appearance are still not clear. The only material to uncover the architectural image of the Zhou Dynasty are the imitation architectural parts of the bronze ware and lacquer at that time, or the partial image of the building that was cast and engraved on these artifacts. The Zhou Dynasty architecture featured in platforms and the Great Wall. The platforms were popular in the period from the Warring States period to the Western Han Dynasty, based on the tall loess platform with the houses built on top of the clay slabs. The wooden structure was closely attached to the loess platforms to form a structural system of civil-wood mixture. The Great Wall was a military project built to defend its territory and resist the invasion of nomadic tribes. The Great Wall of China was first built in the Zhou Dynasty.
Buildings in West Zhou Period
In the images of the earliest bronze artifacts known to have been built, there are four columns in the four corners of the apparatus, as well as a stigma, a cross in the bucket, and a short column in the bowl. In addition, in Fufeng County, Shaanxi Province, a skeleton beast was unearthed, which was cast in the middle of the Western Zhou Dynasty. The apparatus is shaped like a house, with double doors in the front, and the frame of the door appearing like a Chinese character 日, with two inserts. The door is fixed on the door sill with a tie and a door pillow with field windows on the left, right and back sides. There is also another piece of stoneware that was similar to the former, but the house had a front porch and there were field-type railings on the outer edge of the gallery. Although they do not represent all the buildings in West Zhou, they still can be seen as some of the architectural features at that time.
Constructions in the Spring and Autumn Period
The lacquer pieces during the Spring and Autumn Period were unearthed in the tombs in Langjiazhuang, Linyi County, Shandong Province, which are circular in shape with four buildings painted on all four sides. The window is a tic-tac-toe with small grids. This four-roomed building may be related to platform architecture.
Buildings in the Warring States Period
Among the images of buildings engraved or molded on the bronze wares of the Warring States Period, the copper-bronze cups that were unearthed in Hui County of Henan Province are relatively important which showed hunting activities and sacrifices of Wei aristocrat in the temple and community.
One of the large buildings engraved with columns on both sides may be a temple. The vessels were all shown as cross-sections, as well as the people depicted. In the center is a loess platform, surrounded by single-slope corridors. The second floor is the core chamber with center and auxiliary columns beard by three boards. The top floor is also singled out. The entire building is a three-storey building on a loess platform on the second floor with painted columns.
The engraving on the Yanle copper cups represents a high platform with a doorway in the wall, a tunnel in the cave and a platform at the wellhead.