In traditional Chinese fortifications, die refers to the battlements built on the
top of a city wall constructed to protect defenders from missile fire. This term
appears already in the literature of the Pre-Qin period (e.g. “Mozi, chapter 14,
Beiti” : “In the standards of city wall building, the wall should be [built to
the] height of 30 feet, die should be added to the top, the width should be ten
feet” (行城之法。高城三十尺。上加堞。廣十尺)). The element is also referred to as zhidie,
nütouqiang, and duokouqiang in different traditional textual sources.
(JIA Tingli 賈亭立 2018, ATTCAT)
Sources and Contributors:
堞: (1) （戰國）墨翟撰.墨子 (2) （宋）曾公亮，丁度撰.武經總要.清文淵閣四庫全書本 (3)（南宋）陳規等.守城錄.清道光瓶花書屋校刊本.卷二 陳規守城機要：3b-4a (4) 李國豪等主編. 中國土木建築百科辭典：建築. 北京：建築工業出版社，2006：428 (5) 李劍平編著. 中國古建築名詞圖解辭典.太原：山西科學技術出版社，2011：258 (6) 黃寬重. 宋代城郭的防禦設施及材料_黃重寬.(臺北)大六雑誌,1990,81(2):1-23
merlons: (7) Fu Xinian. Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays：351
parapet; battlement: (8) HUANG Kuan-chung, “Defensive Structures and Construction Materials in Song City Walls,” trans. by Wen-yi CHEN, Peter Lorge, and Tracy G. Miller. Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 31 (2001), 49.
Related terms: zhidie 雉堞 ; nǚtóuqiáng 女頭墻 ; Duǒkǒuqiáng 垛口墻
It is a short dentate wall（齒形矮墻） built on the upper, outer edge of the city wall which is used for sheltering guards and is one of the main defensive facilities on the top of the wall. 1 Other terms include: zhidie（雉堞), nvtouqiang（女頭墻), and embrasure wall（垛口墻).
In the literature of the Pre-Qin period the word “堞 (die)” was already in use. For example, in Chapter 14 of the Mozi (Bieti: “In the standards of city wall building, the wall should be [built to the] height of 30 feet, die should be added to the top, the width should be ten feet.”2 The definition in the Shuowen jiezi (說文解字) reads: “Die is the nuqiang on the city wall.” 3 The book Zengxiuhuzhu li bu yun lue (增修互註禮部韻略) by Mao Huang (毛晃) in the Southern Song Dynasty also said: “Die: is also called zhidie, it is the dwarf wall on the city wall. Because it is whitewashed (白堊; with lime or ground shells), it is also called a “powdered battlement” (fendie 粉堞). ” 4 In the literary sources we have examined, this is the first example we have found where die was explained as zhidie.
In historical visual culture, before the Song Dynasty, die are shaped like the Chinese character for mountain (shan 山) , as can be seen in the murals in the center of the west wall of Mogao Grottoes, Cave 257 of the Northern Wei Dynasty. And in the frescoes in the tomb of the Tang dynasty Prince Yide, the die is also 山-shaped. In his Southern Song Shoucheng jiyao (守城機要), Chen Gui (陳規) stated: “The nvqiang are spaced six-feet apart, as specified in the old system, and the height is no more than 5 feet. We build it in the shape of the character 山 (mountain), and leave one opening (nvkou女口) between two embrasures (nvtou女頭).”5
After the Song Dynasty, most of the embrasure walls (垛口墻) were changed to form a continuous rectangular shape, but the "山" shaped walls were still used in the royal buildings, such as the Ming Palace City in Nanjing and the baoding wall of the wall enclosing Ming Xiaoling (明孝陵寶城寶頂). Changes in the shape of die on the city walls generally show that the area of the embrasure (垛墻) has become larger over time, and the openings (垛口) narrower, suggesting the protection of the sheltered area has [gradually] increased.6