"From the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century, seven generations of one family, the Leis, were the architects of the Chinese Emperors, designing new buildings for them, and designing also the furniture and decorations they were to contain. The family architectural archives of over 20,000 documents survives today. It includes wood-and-paper models, architectural surveys, designs, plans, sketches, floor-plans, elevations, sections and details of decorative schemes. Letters and other documents round out the collection. Many of the buildings designed and built by the Leis are well preserved (they include the Temple of Heaven, the Palace Museum in Beijing, the Summer Palace, the Chengde Palace and the Imperial Qing tombs, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites). The Lei clan archives allows us to see in great detail how these magnificent sites were designed and built. It is hard to find comparable archives anywhere in the world of such a systematic or complete documentation, particularly taking into account the World Heritage status of many of the buildings covered in it. Furthermore, the individual documents in the archives are often exquisitely detailed, beautifully coloured, calligraphically annotated, and very carefully finished to a standard suitable for submission to the Emperor.
Ancient Chinese architecture is an integral part of the world's cultural heritage. The Yangshi Lei Archives, inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 2007, enables us to follow some of the greatest Chinese buildings from initial rough sketches to final completion. This magnificent collection also allows us to see how Chinese architects traditionally viewed and were trained for their role."