• die (Pinyin without tones)
  • (Traditional Chinese)1
  • (Simplified Chinese)
  • dié (Pinyin)
  • tieh (Wade-Giles)
  • battlements (lit.) (English)
  • battlements (ATTCAT preferred) (English)2
  • parapets (English)3
  • merlons (English)4


    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 already appears in the literature of the Pre-Qin period (e.g. “In the standards of city wall building, the wall should be [built to the] height of 20 feet, die should be added to the top, and the width should be ten feet 行城之法。高城三十尺。上加堞。廣十尺,” from Mozi, Chapter 14, Beiti).5

    堞在先文獻中就有出現,如《墨子卷十四備梯》: 行城之法。高城二十尺。上加堞。廣十尺。指修築於城墻頂面外邊緣的齒形矮墻。起遮護守城士兵的作用,是城墻頂面的主要防禦設施之壹。5

Related concepts

Note (full)

    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. Other terms include: zhidie(雉堞), nǚtóuqiáng(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 20 feet, die should be added to the top, the width should be ten feet.” The definition in the Shuowen jiezi (說文解字) reads: “Die is the nüqiang on the city wall.” The text Zengxiuhu zhu libu yunlue (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 bai'e; with lime or ground shells), it is also called a “powdered battlement” (fendie 粉堞). ” In the literary sources we have examined, this is the first example we have found where die was explained as zhidie.6

    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 nüqiang 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 (nǚkǒu 女口) between two embrasures (nǚtóu 女頭).”7

    After the Song Dynasty, most of the embrasure walls (垛口墻) were changed to form a continuous rectangular shape (Fig. 1), but the "山" shaped walls were still used in the royal buildings, such as the Ming Palace City in Nanjing (Fig. 2) 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 (Jia and Chen 2010, 440).8

    堞在先文獻中就有出現,如《墨子》. 指修築於城墻頂面外邊緣的齒形矮墻。起遮護守城士兵的作用,是城墻頂面的主要防禦設施之壹。又稱雉堞、女頭墻、垛口墙等.1

    從古代圖像資料看,及宋以前,堞多為“山”字形。南宋陳規《守城機要》中記載:“女頭墻,舊制與城外邊約地六尺壹個,高者不過五尺,作山字樣,兩女頭間留女口壹個”。如敦煌石窟257窟西壁中層北魏時期的壁畫、懿德太子墓墓室壁畫城墻頂部都有“山”字形堞墻。之後,大部分城墻上垛口墻變為連續的矩形垛墻形式(圖1),但“山”字形堞墻在皇家建築上仍有使用,如明南京宮城(圖2),明孝陵寶城寶頂圍墻部分。城墻上堞墻形制的變化總體上呈現出,垛墻面積變大,垛口變窄,即保護遮蔽面積變大的趨勢(賈 and 陳 2010, 440)。9

Works Cited

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

  • 1 墨. 2007. 墨子Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 曾. 武經總要Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 陳. 守城機要.守城錄, 2.3b-4a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 李. 2006. 中國土木建築百科辭典:建築, 428.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 李. 2011. 中国古建筑名词图解辞典, 258.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 黃. 1990. 宋代城郭的防禦設施及材料, 1-23.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 2 2018. ATTCAT 2018Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 3 HUANG. 2001. Defensive Structures and Construction Materials in Song City Walls, 49.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 4 FU. 2017. Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays, 351.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 5 墨. 2007. 墨子, 卷 14.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 6 墨. 2007. 墨子, 卷 14.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 許. 1978. 說文解字(中華書局影印本), 288.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 毛. 增修互註禮部韻略 5卷, 卷 5.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 7 陳. 守城機要.守城錄, 2.3b-4a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 8 贾. 2010. 中国古代城墙的垛口墙形制演进轨迹, 440.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 9 陳. 守城機要.守城錄, 2.3b-4a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 贾. 2010. 中国古代城墙的垛口墙形制演进轨迹, 440.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

Broad Match: fortification elements

How to Cite This Entry

JIA Tingli 賈亭立, “ dié” in Architectura Sinica last modified September 4, 2020, https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000016.


JIA Tingli 賈亭立, “ dié.” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published May 15, 2019. https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000016.

About this Entry

Entry Title: dié

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

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

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, editing, and proofreading by Tracy Miller
  • Editing and proofreading by Aurelia Campbell
  • Revision by Yuh-Fen Benda
  • Adding citations and revising title statement by SUN Zheng 孫正
  • Adding citations information 2021 by FU Shiyi 付詩怡

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