"The proposed paper attempts to explore the morphological structure andmeaning of si he yuan plans in Beijing. Shape grammar is employed to con-duct the exploration. The term "si he yuan" refers to a plan type encounteredcommonly In traditional Chinese architecture. Literally, "si" denotes"four", "he" means "to enclose", and "yuan" is the term for "courtyard". Ar-chitecturally, the si he yuan consists of one or more rectangular courtyardsarranged in series. Each courtyard is enclosed on four sides by rooms. Thistraditional residence type has evolved gradually throughout Chinese history.Arguably, its morphological structure reflects past and present conceptionsof and attitudes toward habitation and residential architecture in northernChina. As a mailer of fact, according to Pai (1987:294), it constitutes "theculmination of the traditional house form expressed In Its function, form,spatial organization, fengshui and construction and decoration".In the first part of the paper, a brief, critical review of the literature onthe si he yuan is presented. Then, twenty representative Si he yuan plans inthe Beijing area are selected. These plans are analyzed morphologically toderive the set of rules that constitute the proposed shape grammar. Six setsof rules make up the shape grammar. The first four are employed to derivethe main courtyard, the front courtyard, the main entrance, and the rearcourtyard, respectively. The fifth set of rules can be used to modify theboundary of a si he yuan composition generated by using the four aforemen-tioned sets of rules. The sixth set is applied to terminate the processes ofplan generation and boundary modification. All the rules are expressed par-ametrIcally.It is argued that the proposed shape grammar can be employed to address twotypes of problems. The first is the classic compositional problem confrontedby the designer, the historian, or the student of Chinese culture who wantsto explore what forms the sihe yuan can assume. The second type of problem is the inverse of the first and entails "grammatical inference". Specifically,starting with n si he yuan plans, where n is a positive integer, say twenty, adesigner can not only reconstruct the n plans but can also generate new onesexhibiting the same morphological structure.Further, it is contended that si he yuan plans constitute a distinct class ofarchitectural compositions. Their persistent morphological structure ap-pears to reflect significant aspects of Chinese culture such as family struc-ture and function. For example, the location of a family member's room isdetermined by his or her position in the family structure. Rooms frontingon the main courtyard are assigned to "high-ranking" members of the fami-ly. As the distance from the main courtyard increases, rooms are occupiedby increasingly "low-ranking" family members.It is concluded that shape grammar can be employed as a framework for cut-hire-sensitive design. Specifically, it is suggested that contemporary ar-chitects interested in designing buildings whose morphological structureembodies important Chinese cultural attributes may employ the proposedshape grammar as a point of departure."