dūntái 墩臺



  • duntai (Pinyin without tones)1
  • 墩臺 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 墩台 (Simplified Chinese)
  • dūntái (Pinyin)2
  • tun-t'ai (Wade-Giles)
  • 墪臺 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 墪台 (Simplified Chinese)
  • mounded platform (lit. ATTCAT 2022 preferred translation) (English)


    Duntai, meaning “mound” or “platform” (Kroll 2015, 96, 440), constitutes a high platform used to look out for the enemy and convey military signals. The front-most post in the beacon transmission system, duntai were mostly used along inland borders such as the Great Wall, as well as in seaside and riverside border defense. They were also constructed in military training grounds for military practice. Duntai were usually built on high ground and in open places and were spaced about two li apart. The duntai was also the place where “mound troops” (dunjun 墩軍) lived. 3

    The term duntai likely first appeared in the Ming dynasty and began to be used by the mid-15th century at the latest (Luo 1522 15.77a;IHP, Academia Sinica 1963 7.6b). In the Ming, duntai were also often called yandun 煙墩 (“(beacon-) smoke mound”), fengsui 烽燧 (beacon-fire (tower)), fenghou 烽堠 (beacon-fire post), and fenghuotai 烽火臺 (beacon-fire platform). Duntai can be traced back to the tingsui 亭燧 (fort or station-house beacon) and fengsui 烽燧 of the Han dynasty. 4

    Judging from textual records and extant examples, duntai are usually solid, square, high platforms with a small top and a large bottom. There are also a small number of circular duntai. Various construction materials were used in duntai, such as tamped earth, and stone and brick masonry. The platform is equipped with small rooms for storing beacons and simple war supplies, and provides spaces for soldiers to live. Duntai are often surrounded by a circle of “goat-and-horse” walls (yangma cheng 羊馬城), trenches, and suspension bridges, and some have barracks inside the "horse-and-goat walls (Yu 1522-1566, 1a; Wang 1787, 25.71a; Qian 1644, 1.44b; Qi 1847, 6.4b). 5

    In the early sixteenth century, the outer walls of hollow masonry duntai included arrow windows and cannon eyes, so that soldiers could hide inside the piers and shoot outward (Yang Yiqing 1576,8.24a). The function of defending against an enemy was thus further strengthened. 6

    By the late Ming dynasty, the shape of the hollow duntai in the military books had basically been determined, and a large number of duntai were constructed. By the Qing dynasty, the Great Wall was no longer the focus of border defense, and the number of duntai set up along the Great Wall was reduced.


    根據目前查閱的古籍文獻,“墩臺”一詞最早出現於代的文獻(罗 1522,15.77a;中央硏究院歷史語言硏究所 1963,7.6b),至遲在15世紀中期開始使用。在代,墩台也常被称为煙墩、烽燧、烽堠,烽火臺,墩臺這一設施可追溯到代的“亭燧”和“烽燧”。4

    從文獻記載和現存實例來看,墩臺多是上小下大的實心方形高臺,也有少量的圓形墩臺,有用土夯築、石塊壘築、包砌磚石等多種建造方式。臺上多設有用於存放烽具、簡單戰備物資以及供士兵居住的小房。墩台下常圍繞有一圈羊馬牆、壕塹和吊橋,有些墩台羊馬牆內還設置駐兵營房。(餘 1522-1566,1a;王 1787,25.71a;錢 1644,1.44b;戚 1847,6.4b)十六世紀早期出現磚石砌築的空心墩臺(楊 1576,8.24a),中空的墩臺外壁上設有箭窗銃眼,士兵可藏于墩臺內部對外射擊,禦敵功能進一步加強。明代後期,空心墩臺的形制基本確定,也有大量實例建造。代,長城沿線不再是邊防重點,沿長城設置的墩台有所裁撤,數量相對於代有所減少。5,, 6

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Works Cited

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

  • 1 FU. 2017. Traditional Chinese Architecture: Twelve Essays, 354.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 2 漢語大詞典編纂処. 2011. 漢語大詞典, accessed June 12, 2022.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 3 KROLL. 2015. A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, 96, 440.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 4 羅. 1522. 三國演義, 15.77a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 中央硏究院歷史語言硏究所. 1963. 明英宗睿皇帝實録廢帝附, 7.6b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 5 餘. 1522-1566. 餘肅敏公奏議不分卷, 1a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 王. 1787. (正德)姑蘇志, 25.71a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 錢. 1644. 城守籌略, 1.44b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 戚. 1847. 練兵實紀, 6.4b.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
  • 6 楊. 1576. 關中奏議, 8.24a.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

Broad Match: foundations

How to Cite This Entry

JIA Tingli 贾亭立 et al., “ 墩臺 dūntái” in Architectura Sinica last modified May 31, 2023, https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000207.


JIA Tingli 贾亭立 et al., “ 墩臺 dūntái.” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published May 30, 2022. https://architecturasinica.org/keyword/k000207.

About this Entry

Entry Title: 墩臺 dūntái

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

  • Tracy Miller, editor, Architectura Sinica
  • ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净, associate editor, Architectural Terminology
  • JIA Tingli 贾亭立 and XUE Ziwei 薛紫薇, entry contributors, “ 墩臺 dūntái

Additional Credit:

  • Preliminary research and revision by XUE Ziwei 薛紫薇 CMW M22
  • Peer review by ATTCAT 2022
  • Website coordination by Yuh-Fen Benda
  • English proofreading by Aurelia Campbell Tracy Miller
  • Chinese proofreading by ZHUGE Jing 諸葛净 ZUO Lala 左拉拉
  • Data entry by CHEN Zhuo 陈卓
  • Entry of revised data and links by LI Zhixian 李知賢

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