cuánjiān 攢尖


  • cuanjian (Pinyin without tones)
  • 攢尖 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 攒尖 (Simplified Chinese)
  • cuánjiān (Pinyin)
  • ts'uan-chien (Wade-Giles)
  • massed [into a] point (lit.) (English)1
  • pyramidal roof (English)2
  • pointed roof (ATTCAT preferred translation) (English)3
  • peaked roof (English)3

Note (full)

    Literally meaning “massed [into a] point” (Kroll 2015, 68; 194) cuanjian is a form of traditional Chinese roof that meets at the top to form a spire. The term cuanjian first appeared in the literature of the Qing dynasty, and is characterized by a steep roof which can have several vertical ridges (in a polygonal plan) or no ridges (in a circular plan) but which comes together at the top in a point and is then covered with a tapered, jewel-shaped finial (baoding 寶頂).1

    This kind of roof is called cuojian (Li 2009, 13.7a) and doujian (Li 2009, 5.10b) in the Song period Yingzao fashi. In the Yingzao fayuan (1959), the term jiandingshi is used to indicate the cuanjian-type roof (Yao and Zhang 1986, 92). Although the earliest known use of terms referring to this kind of roof dates to the Song dynasty, images and physical remains survive from much earlier, indicating that the cuanjian-type roof had appeared by the Eastern Han at the latest. The earliest extant cuanjian-roof buildings are from the Northern Wei dynasty, such as the pagoda of Songyue Monastery (523 CE) and the stone pagoda with carved figures unearthed from the Liquan Temple ruins (Liu and Xu 2016). In the Tang dynasty, we find a variety of cuanjian shapes, of which four are the most common: quadrangles, hexagons, octagons, and circles. The use of cuanjian is very widespread, and roofs of this type are found not only on pavilions and other garden structures, but also on palaces and temple buildings.4


    《營造法式》(1103)中,這種屋頂形式被稱為“撮尖”(李 2009,13.7a)、“闘尖”(李 2009,5.10b)。《營造法原》(1959)中用“尖頂式”表示“攢尖”這種屋頂形式(姚 1986,92)。儘管文獻中指向該種屋頂形式的術語使用最早見於 《營造法式》,但根據目前已知的圖像資料和實物遺存,至遲東漢時期已出現攢尖式屋頂。現存最早的攢尖頂建築實物是北魏時期的,如嵩嶽寺塔,醴泉寺遺址出土的四方亭式造像塔(劉和徐 2016)等。而至唐代,攢尖頂出現了多種形狀,常見有四角攢尖、六角攢尖、八角攢尖和圓形攢尖四種形式。攢尖頂建築的使用範圍多樣,不僅可以在亭榭等園林小品建築中使用,也可在宮殿、壇廟建築中使用。 4

Related concepts

Works Cited

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

  • 1 KROLL. 2015. A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, 68, 194.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; FU. 2017. Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays, 305, 311, 380.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 2021. ATTCAT 2021Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 2 LIANG. 2005. Chinese architecture: a pictorial historyLink to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 3 FU. 2017. Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays, 305, 311, 380.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 4 李. 2009. 營造法式 (1103; 故宫藏抄本), 5.10b, 13.7a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 姚. 1986. 营造法原, 92.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 刘. 2016. 陕西发现佛教供奉塔、造像塔和画像砖塔述要Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

Broad Match: roof types

How to Cite This Entry

HONG Yun 洪雲 et al., “ 攢尖 cuánjiān” in Architectura Sinica last modified November 26, 2021,


HONG Yun 洪雲 et al., “ 攢尖 cuánjiān.” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published September 12, 2021.

About this Entry

Entry Title: 攢尖 cuánjiān

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

  • Tracy Miller, editor, Architectura Sinica
  • ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净, associate editor, Architectural Terminology
  • HONG Yun 洪雲 and JIA Tingli 賈亭立, entry contributors, “ 攢尖 cuánjiān

Additional Credit:

  • Website coordination by Yuh-Fen Benda
  • Preliminary research CMW 2021
  • Data entry, adding links 2021 by ZHANG Xuliang 張序亮
  • English proofreading by Aurelia Campbell Tracy Miller
  • Chinese proofreading by ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净 ZUO Lala 左拉拉
  • Peer review by ATTCAT 2021

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