What would the architecture be like in an alternate history where Mexico was colonized by China instead of Spain?

Assume that:

  • Similar to OTT Mexico, the people in power are of mostly of Chinese descent
  • The majority of inhabitants are of mixed indigenous and Chinese ancestry
  • There are also some people of all-indigenous descent
  • Some fairly small groups descended from other countries
  • Time frame is the 16th century (same as when the Spanish colonized)
  • $\begingroup$ I assume you mean Mexican architecture specifically? $\endgroup$ Oct 21, 2015 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ What time period are we talking about? When was the colonization and when is the architectural period? Also, can we assume the other European powers were also colonizing nearby, and that Spain just failed to show up? $\endgroup$ Oct 21, 2015 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ TBH I didn't think that far, I was just responding to the "Architecture" Fortnightly challenge. Say that, for some reason (as in Years of Rice and Salt or Journey to Fusang, European countries never colonized the Americas, and China did--or at least Mexico. (Small European minorities are possible.) Also, say the Chinese conquest happened in the 16th century, around when the Spanish conquest did OTL. $\endgroup$
    – user24353
    Oct 21, 2015 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ I have developed a blend of Roman and Aztec style for one of the nations in my story...its an ...interesting combination. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Oct 21, 2015 at 16:15

1 Answer 1


Ah another adventure into the land of probability, here we go.

So...we don't have a ton of pre-colonial reference material to work with and what we do have tends to be major buildings, not common dwellings.

The most obvious examples are the Mayan ruins (of which there are many). Here is a pretty solid representation:

enter image description here

You can see a few common themes in Mayan architecture.

  • Strong straight lines
  • Arches were not common
  • Lots and lots of stone...even for roofs

On the other hand, common dwellings in Mexico would have ranged from wooden thatched huts to adobe cubes depending on where exactly in Mexico you are and what natural resources are available.

So, when the Spanish came in they brought their style along with them, which included pretty advanced engineering concepts and Moorish influence. This resulted in arch supports and arched doorways all emphasizing height.

Again this was mainly restricted to official or public spaces. Churches, government residences, etc. In large part the common dwelling would not have changed.

How would the alternate history have changed things?

Well...everything would be more ...Chinese

Traditional Chinese architecture would function much the same as Spanish architecture did. Important buildings would have been funded by the government and would have been designed by Chinese architects.

So amidst the adobe cubes and thatched houses you would have Chinese styled buildings. Chinese architecture did not emphasize height in displaying wealth. It was how wide the structure was, so the styles are completely different.

It is interesting to consider how the simple bold lines of the pre-colonial style would mix with the ornate flowing nature of Chinese buildings. Structurally the two are not terribly different, meaning both started low and wide and then tiered upward getting narrower, where as Spanish buildings of import liked to go strait up.

Normally you would have to consider what resources are available, but Mexico is pretty well off in terms of varying biomes so there shouldn't be an issue for the Chinese to get their hands on pretty much any building material they need.

  • $\begingroup$ One thing for sure, China is not going to be running force conversion to Chinese culture at sword point. $\endgroup$
    – Faito Dayo
    Dec 6, 2021 at 2:17

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