On Wednesday, March 10, 2021, a group of Form 3 (Year 9) CCP Science students at St. Margaret College Secondary School, Verdala, Cospicua participated in a school project learning about China’s earthquake- resistant buildings since antiquity. This project was coordinated by Senior Science teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc and it was related to the Science study unit about Forces and Motion. Throughout this project students had the opportunity to watch a short documentary about how a structure built in the Forbidden City holds up to a simulated earthquake test. This science test can be watched in the following video:
Earthquakes are experienced in many parts of the world, but China had the world’s 10 deadliest earthquakes. China is susceptible to earthquakes due to the structure and position of the globe’s tectonic plates.
Earthquakes in China has always been taken seriously and 2500 years ago Chinese builders developed earthquake-resistant structures with interlocking flower-shaped brackets called ‘dougong’ that survive modern day shake tests.
It was during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.) that China adopted the ‘dougong’ system in architecture to build temples and palaces. The ‘dougong’ system consists of a series of interlocking beams cut to precise measurements that, when compressed under the weight of the buildings’ heavy timber roofs, are strong enough to withstand earthquakes. By using a large number of pieces in the design, the weight is shared so individual elements are not prone to splitting or cracking. The pieces are fitted together without using nails or glue and require formidable skill and precision to make each timber piece.
What surprises European architects is that the system isn’t sunk into the ground with a foundation or footing but it floats, sitting lightly on the ground.
In 2008, China experienced a massive earthquake in the Sichuan province. It is estimated that over 69,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake and more than 300,000 people were injured. Since then, massive changes in regulations have been introduced to ensure that rebuilt buildings are able to withstand earthquakes and many Chinese architects are trying to imitate the old ‘dougong’ system when designing new building structures.
At the end of this project students discussed building sustainability and earthquake-resistant buildings in Malta.
Teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc and his students offer thanksgivings to the Malta China Cultural Centre and the Chinese Embassy in Malta for their continual help and support in fulfilling these school study projects.
This project aims to reach three of the main goals proposed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Good Health and Well-being, Life on Land, and Quality Education.