chīwěi 鴟尾


  • chiwei (Pinyin without tones)1
  • 鴟尾 (Traditional Chinese)2
  • 鴟尾 (Simplified Chinese)
  • chīwěi (Pinyin)1
  • ch'ih-wei (Wade-Giles)3
  • owl's tails; hawk's tails (lit.) (English)
  • sea beasts (English)4


    Chiwei is a tile component used at both ends of a building’s roof ridge (zhengji 正脊). The term appears in the statutory documents of official histories, such as the Chen shu 陳書, where the types and grades of buildings that can use chiwei are regulated; thus, it would have been a marker of high status. Provisions for the size, manufacture, labor, and other regulations for the use of chiwei on different types of buildings are outlined in the Yingzao fashi, Chapter 13, 5a-b. The names of specific shapes include owl or hawk tails (chiwei 鴟尾), dragon tails (longwei 龍尾), and beast heads (shoutou 獸頭). Different names for this feature were also used over time, including sea-beast tails (chiwei 蚩尾), shrine tails (ciwei 祠尾), owl or hawk beaks (chiwen 鴟吻), central lips or jaws (zhengwen 正吻), and great lips or jaws (dawen 大吻). Before the mid-Tang dynasty, chiwei were usually simple tails arching inwards and decorated with fin or feather patterns on the outer edge. In the mid-Tang (ca. 790-820) we see the added pattern of a beast head with an open mouth, and the tail gradually transitioning into that of a fish. Beginning in the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), the chiwei tail arched outwards instead of inwards. In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the beast's head opened its mouth around the ridge, the tail curved outward, and the ends (duanbu 端部) changed from bifurcated (fencha 分叉) to curled (juanqu 卷曲). Furthermore, dragons and swords were attached to the body of the beast and its shape was squared off. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, chiwei were commonly called chiwen 鴟吻, wenshou 吻獸, or zhengwen 正吻.

    鴟尾指建築正脊兩端的瓦作構件。從《陳書》等官修史书中可推論鴟尾一般用於高等級建築;的“营缮令”等法令规定了可以使用鴟尾的建築類型和等級。《營造法式》(1103)對用於不同規格的建築上的鴟尾的尺寸、做法、功限、料例做了具体規定。 目前所見中之前鴟尾的形象多為比較簡單的尾尖向內傾伸,外側施鰭狀紋或羽毛紋樣;中開始鴟尾下部出現張口的獸頭,尾部則逐漸向魚尾過渡;代鴟尾尾部漸向外卷曲;時正脊兩端的這一構件已不稱鴟尾,而稱鴟吻、吻獸、正吻等,獸頭張口吞脊,尾部完全外彎,端部由分叉變為卷曲,獸身多附雕小龍,比例近於方形,背上叉劍把。

Related concepts

Works Cited

Any information without attribution has been created following the editorial guidelines.

  • 1 2018. ATTCAT 2018Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; FU. 2017. Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays, 351.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 2 李. 2009. 營造法式 (1103; 故宫藏抄本), 13.5a-b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 陳. 2010. 《營造法式》辭解, 427.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 潘. 2005. 《营造法式》解读, 163.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 王. 2007. 中国古建筑术语辞典, 329-330.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 王. 2007. 中國建築圖解詞典, 9.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 村田. 1998. 中国鸱尾史略(上), 57-64+51.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 村田. 1998. 中国鸱尾史略(下), 67-68+17.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 黃. 2004. 中国鴟尾の起源と変遷, 68-100.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 3 LIANG. 2005. Chinese architecture: a pictorial history, 42.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 4 GUO. 2002. A Visual Dictionary of Chinese Architecture, 24.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

Broad Match: roofing tiles

How to Cite This Entry

JIA Tingli 賈亭立, “ 鴟尾 chīwěi” in Architectura Sinica last modified August 31, 2020,


JIA Tingli 賈亭立, “ 鴟尾 chīwěi.” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published May 22, 2019.

About this Entry

Entry Title: 鴟尾 chīwěi

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

  • Tracy Miller, editor, Architectura Sinica
  • ZHUGE Jing 諸葛凈, associate editor, Architectural Terminology
  • JIA Tingli 賈亭立, entry contributor, “ 鴟尾 chīwěi

Additional Credit:

  • Website coordination by Yuh-Fen Benda
  • Initial research and revision by JIA Tingli 賈亭立
  • Peer review by ATTCAT 2018
  • Data entry and revision by Tracy Miller
  • Chinese editing and proofreading by Zhuge Jing
  • English editing and proofreading by Aurelia Campbell
  • Adding citations Melanie Lu
  • Revising title statement by SUN Zheng 孫正

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