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 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.
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- 1 ATTCAT 2018; FU, Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays, 351.
- 2 李, YZFS, 13.5a-b.; 陈, 《营造法式》辞解, 427.; 潘, 《营造法式》解读, 163.; 王, 中国古建筑术语辞典, 329-330.; 王, 中國建築圖解詞典, 9.; 村田, 中国鸱尾史略(上), 57-64+51.; 村田, 中国鸱尾史略(下), 67-68+17.; 黃, 中国鴟尾の起源と変遷, 68-100.
- 3 LIANG, Chinese architecture, 42.
- 4 GUO, A Visual Dictionary of Chinese Architecture 中國建築英漢雙解辭典, 24.
Broad Match: Roofing Tiles
How to Cite This Entry
Bibliography:“ 鴟尾 chīwěi.” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published May 22, 2019. https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000009.
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”
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- Adding citations Melanie Lu
- Revising title statement by SUN Zheng 孫正
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