Modern China is not exactly an architectural treasure-trove, and since 1949 this situation has been exacerbated by the widespread construction of brick and concrete housing blocks, unimaginative office buildings and outright ugly factories. Nevertheless, besides the imperial structures of Beijing, the lingering colonial buildings of Shanghai, the temples being restored across the country and the occasional rural village that has somehow escaped the ravages of the 20th century, there's still plenty to see.
Traditionally, Chinese architecture — from the lowliest village homestead to imperial palace — follows certain principles. A north-south-oriented walled compound (with the main entrance to the south) that houses one or more structures was the basic form. As Chinese lived together in extended-family groups, a walled home would generally house the living quarters for the head of the family in the north, with housing for children and their families on the side.