China Pavilion

World Expo Park

Shangnan Road

Pudong New District


People's Republic of China


He Jingtang 2010


The China Pavilion was the flagship of the Shanghai Expo pavilions. At 70 meters tall it is three times the height of other countries' pavilions, and was designed as a permanent structure for Shanghai. During the Expo itself it received 10 million of the total 73 million visitors, and this number was limited only by the capacity of the building. It has stayed open into 2011 to handle continuing demand for its Expo exhibition of China's recent and future progress.


The building is designed by He Jingtang, a 72-year-old Chinese architect and professor at the South China University of Technology's school of architecture. He previously designed the wrestling and badminton venues at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His design for the China Pavilion "mean[s] to show the spirit and face of the Chinese people against the background of a rising nation."



The form of the building is based on the traditional Chinese dougong or wooden crossbeam, but on a massive scale. These beams are painted in a traditional Chinese red - in fact seven carefully chosen shades of red, three for the exterior (darkest at the top) and four more inside, together representing "unity with difference". As He describes,

It is the first time that I dared to use red on such a large-scale building. We collected every kind of red color that we needed and tried to find the right Chinese red from these colors, such as the red of Tiananmen, the Forbidden City and the Chinese national flag. We even invited experts from the color research institute at the China Academy of Art for help.


The ends of the dougong beams are decorated with zhuan, a seal style used in Chinese calligraphy. On the beams projecting directly out from the building, these hide the pavilion's elegant structural secret: that the cross-beams through the middle of the building are not its structure at all, but are air conditioning shafts. The structure is in angled concrete beams that follow the line of the inverted pyramid walls, inside the building. The result is a properly hollow structure with enormous usable space, in a deliberate reconciliation of traditional elements with a modern internal space.



Symbolism is rife in the China pavilion, in the details, the visitor's course through the building, and the overall form: the legs and bowl of a ding vessel used by Chinese emperors to make offers to the gods, but also an oriental crown. As He pragmatically puts it:

Some say it looks like an old Chinese official's cap. Some say it's a kind of ancient Chinese cooking vessel. Some even say it's a grain barn. No matter what they think the image is, they all think it is very Chinese. That's what I wanted.


Simon Glynn 2011

How to visit


At the time of writing the Pavilion is continuing to show its Expo exhibition, though with a period of closure for renovation planned.


The China Pavilion is just next to the Mercedes Benz Arena.




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