What Is Chinese Clay Tile?-5 Styles

Chinese tiles are a traditional building material with distinctive Chinese characteristics, commonly used in the construction of houses, temples, gardens, and other structures. They come in various forms and colors, representing a significant component of Chinese architectural culture. This article primarily introduces the history, materials, and types of Chinese tiles.

what are Chinese clay tiles?

Chinese tiles are a traditional building material with distinctive Chinese characteristics, commonly used in the construction of houses, temples, and gardens, among other structures. They come in various forms and colors, such as glazed tiles, blue tiles, red tiles, and yellow tiles, representing a significant component of Chinese architectural culture. The craftsmanship involved in the production of Chinese tiles is highly intricate, requiring multiple processes including material selection, tile shaping, and high-temperature firing.

Throughout its long history of development, Chinese tiles have gradually formed their unique forms and styles, each type serving different purposes and possessing distinct characteristics. For instance, glazed tiles are often used in the construction of palaces and temples due to their waterproof, moisture-resistant, and weather-resistant properties. On the other hand, blue tiles are commonly employed in ordinary residences and garden architecture for their simple, natural, and harmonious features.

what are Chinese clay tiles made of?

The term “瓦” has two common interpretations: First, it refers to a building material used to cover rooftops, typically made from clay or other materials like cement, and comes in various shapes such as arched, flat, or semi-cylindrical. Second, it can also refer to ceramic pots or vessels made from fired clay.

Tiles are suitable for various roof structures, including concrete, steel, wood, and brick-wood hybrid structures, for both new and existing sloped roofs with angles ranging from 15 to 90 degrees and suitable for temperatures between -50°C to 70°C.

There are several types of materials used for tiles:

Ceramic Tiles: These are ceramic products fired at high temperatures, known for their hardness and durability, and possess excellent properties such as waterproofing and fire resistance.

Concrete Tiles: Commonly used tiles made from a mixture of cement, lime, sand, and aggregates. After molding, they are treated with high-temperature steam to acquire waterproofing and wind-resistant capabilities.

Asphalt Shingles: Also known as stone-coated asphalt shingles, these tiles are covered with petroleum asphalt and granite stone chips. They offer advantages such as good waterproofing, durability, and strong weight support.

Ceramic Granule Board Tiles: Lightweight roofing tiles made from a mix of cement and ceramic granules. They have the advantage of being lightweight, good thermal insulation, strong waterproofing, and ease of installation.

Additionally, there are other types of tiles made from various materials, such as glazed tiles, blue tiles, red tiles, yellow tiles, and more.

what are Chinese clay tile used for?

The main uses of roof tiles are as follows:

Waterproofing and Leak Prevention: Roof tiles serve as a protective barrier against rain and prevent leaks, ensuring the interior of the building remains dry and safe.

Thermal Insulation: Roof tiles can block a significant amount of sunlight, providing important protection for the building and improving living conditions. They contribute to a comfortable living experience, keeping the interior warm in winter and cool in summer.

Decorative Function: Over time, roof tiles have evolved to have a decorative role. For example, in Beijing, roof tiles are typically red or gray, adding aesthetic appeal to the buildings and enhancing their overall appearance.

Environmentally Friendly: Roof tile manufacturers prioritize environmental protection during production, and the simple installation process reduces material consumption, gaining recognition from environmental advocates.

Additionally, roof tiles can be used to cover various parts of buildings, including roofs, walls, and window sills, providing functions such as waterproofing, moisture resistance, and theft prevention.

style of Chinese clay tile

In China, common types of tiles include glazed tiles, barrel tiles, and horseshoe tiles. Glazed tiles are made of glass material and feature beautiful colors and shine, widely used in ancient architecture. Barrel tiles are cylindrical-shaped tiles commonly used for roof covering. Horseshoe tiles, on the other hand, have a horseshoe shape and are often found in traditional temple buildings.

Roof tiles in ancient times can be categorized into several types:

Glazed Tiles: The most common type of roof tile in ancient China, made from clay and decorated with colorful glazes.

Yellow Glazed Tiles: High-temperature fired clay tiles with a yellow glaze, commonly used in imperial buildings and temples, symbolizing dignity and solemnity.

Drip-edge Tiles: A practical type of roof tile with an arched shape designed to collect rainwater and direct it to the eaves, preventing water from dripping onto the walls and protecting the building from water erosion.

Horsehead Wall Tiles: Decorative elements resembling a horse’s head, commonly seen in traditional Chinese architecture.

Eave Colored Painted Tiles: Roof tiles with various patterns and characters painted on them, creating colorful decorative effects, often used on the eaves of buildings to add a unique artistic atmosphere.

Clay Tiles:

Clay tiles have two main categories:

Sintered Roof Tiles and Sintered Fittings: Roof tiles can be classified into various shapes, including flat tiles, three-curve tiles, double-cylinder tiles, fish-scale tiles, bull-tongue tiles, plate tiles, cylinder tiles, drip-edge tiles, J-shaped tiles, S-shaped tiles, and other irregular tiles. Fittings include eave tiles and ridge tiles, with various designs and functions.

Surface State: Clay tiles can be glazed or unglazed.

In addition to the above types, there are other roof tile materials, such as terracotta tiles, glazed tiles (such as porcelain glazed tiles), yellow tiles, and red tiles. Roof tiles are applied to various roofing structures, such as concrete structures, steel structures, wooden structures, and brick-wood hybrid structures, with suitable slope angles ranging from 15 to 90 degrees and applicable temperatures from -50°C to 70°C.

It is important to note that the use of roof tiles has decreased in modern construction due to factors such as their brittleness, heavy weight, and slow construction efficiency, making them less commonly used in contemporary building projects.

Waterproof and Colorful Cement Tiles:

Waterproof and colorful cement tiles have gained popularity in recent years as a new type of roofing material. They are known for their novel and sleek designs, high density, and scientific dimensions. These tiles break away from traditional architectural styles while enhancing waterproof performance. They are widely used in high-end villas, garden houses, and sloped roofs. The key features of these tiles include:

Unique Waterproof Structure: High-strength color tiles are molded to ensure smooth and rapid drainage of rainwater, avoiding backflow commonly seen in rolled tiles. The higher part of the molded tiles also acts as a water stop, preventing water backflow and leakage even on flat roofs.

Exceptional Strength and Impermeability: These tiles are dense, uniform, and possess a strength of over 200kg for resistance to pressure and bending. They provide a sturdy surface for construction work and do not crack in extreme temperature changes, surpassing the performance of traditional terracotta tiles.

Precise and Non-deformable Structure: The molded tiles are aesthetically pleasing with strict dimensional accuracy and good flatness, overcoming the drawback of deformation during the firing process of terracotta tiles. Their tight interlocking ensures a seamless roof with distinct geometric shapes, enhancing overall roof aesthetics.

Unique Surface Treatment: The tiles have excellent resistance to UV rays, acids, alkalis, high and low temperatures, aging, peeling, and flaking. An advanced automatic baking coating process ensures that the paint penetrates and adheres to the tiles, improving color retention, decorative effects, and prolonging their lifespan.

Convenient Installation: Whether installed vertically or horizontally, the tiles are easy to work with. Their scientific structure and dimensions allow them to be laid on concrete without additional waterproof layers. Cutting tools can be used to cut the tiles at any angle with ease.

Comprehensive Accessories and Customizable Colors: The tiles come with a variety of simple and versatile shapes suitable for different roof types. They are available in a range of colors to meet customer preferences and reflect the architect’s style, accentuating the overall landscape of the building.

Synthetic Resin Tiles:

Synthetic resin tiles, also known as plastic tiles, PVC tiles, composite tiles, lightweight tiles, antique tiles, and plastic steel tiles, have the following features:

Excellent Weather Resistance: Designed with a unique super weather-resistant and anti-aging formula, these tiles have demonstrated good performance in various climates, from mainland China to Southeast Asia, with a lifespan of over 50 years.

Outstanding Waterproofing: These tiles eliminate the need for additional waterproof layers when used on roofs with slopes ranging from 15 to 90 degrees. The material properties, structure, patented fittings, and scientific installation turn the roof into a complete waterproof system.

Wind and Seismic Resistance: These tiles can withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, providing reliable safety for both villas and high-rise buildings, whether in inland or coastal areas.

Rich Colors and Long-lasting Stability: With a selection of 25 colors, the tiles maintain a smooth surface and strong resistance to acids and alkalis, ensuring they do not corrode or deteriorate even after exposure to various environments.

Good Fire Resistance: Complying with national requirements for roof materials, these tiles achieve a non-combustible level standard, effectively slowing down the spread of fire.

Thermal Insulation and Soundproofing: With a low thermal conductivity coefficient of 0.06kcal/m.h.℃ for the 2.2mm thick tiles, they offer six times better thermal insulation than 15mm cement tiles. The porous core material also contributes to sound absorption, reducing noise disturbances for residents.

Excellent Flexibility and Strength: The unique three-layer composite structure, bi-directional tensile processing, and selected raw materials make these tiles more flexible and stronger than similar products.

Easy Installation: These lightweight tiles are easy to handle and can be used for various special shapes, including facades and curved windows. They can be directly nailed, sawed, drilled, and planed.

Economical and Cost-saving: The synthetic resin tile sloped roof system has the lightest self-weight and lowest cost among mid-to-high-end sloped roofs.

Polyester Tiles:

Straw Fiber Super-strong Polyester Tiles, also known as straw “tiles,” have the following features:

Quality, Strength, and Durability: These tiles offer excellent strength, soundproofing, thermal insulation, fire resistance (reaching national A1 fire prevention standards), non-conductivity, and a lifespan of up to 30 years. They are free from carcinogenic substances and odors, posing no harm to health.

Applications: Suitable for large and medium-sized factories, farmers’ markets, yards, parking lots, farms, chemical plants, grain storage warehouses, new rural construction, villas, construction sites, activity board houses, steel structure projects, rain shelters, warehouses, pavilions, corridors, antique scenic spots, roof conversions, and pollution treatment plants.

Raw Materials: Made from various agricultural wastes such as wheat straw, early rice straw, weeds, corn stalks, peanut shells, sawdust, medium ash, soybean stalks, wheat straw, cotton, and tree branches.

The above translations describe the features and applications of waterproof and colorful cement tiles, synthetic resin tiles, and polyester tiles. These modern roofing materials offer a range of advantages, including waterproofing, strength, durability, and eco-friendly properties, making them suitable for various architectural projects.

how to make Chinese Clay Tile?

Making traditional Chinese clay tiles involves a process that has been passed down through generations. Here’s a general outline of the steps involved in making Chinese clay tiles:

Material Preparation:

Select the right type of clay for the tiles. The clay should be workable, free of impurities, and suitable for firing. Traditional Chinese tiles are often made from terracotta clay.

Mixing the Clay:

The clay is mixed with water to achieve the right consistency. It should be thoroughly kneaded to remove air bubbles and create a uniform texture.


The clay is then shaped into the desired tile form using molds. Traditional Chinese roof tiles typically have curved or flat shapes. The molds may be made of wood, metal, or other materials.


The freshly molded tiles are left to air dry for a period of time. This helps to reduce moisture content and stabilize the shape of the tiles.

Surface Treatment:

After the tiles have dried partially, the surface may be smoothed and refined to ensure an even finish. The tile’s decorative patterns or symbols can also be carved or impressed onto the surface at this stage.

Drying Further:

The tiles are left to dry completely. The drying process should be gradual to avoid cracking or warping.


Once the tiles are fully dry, they are ready for firing. Traditional Chinese kilns are used for this purpose. The tiles are stacked inside the kiln, and the firing process begins. The kiln temperature and firing duration will vary depending on the type of clay and the desired outcome.


After firing, the kiln is allowed to cool gradually to prevent thermal shock, which could lead to cracks in the tiles.

Glazing (Optional):

In some cases, Chinese clay tiles may be glazed to add color and further protect the surface. Glazing is typically applied before firing.

Quality Control:

After the firing process is complete and the tiles have cooled, they are inspected for quality. Any defective or damaged tiles are removed.


The finished tiles are now ready for installation on roofs or walls. They are usually secured in place using mortar or other appropriate materials.

history of Chinese clay tile/history of clay roof tiles

From oracle bone script, it is known that over 3,000 years ago, there were decorative or structural components on the roof ridges, but there have been no excavated findings of ceramic tiles. Therefore, it is likely that these components were either made of wood, which has rotted over time, or made of copper, which has not been identified by modern researchers, but ceramic tiles that underwent firing were not used.

The invention and use of tiles in ancient China started during the early Western Zhou period (around 1046-771 BC) when some remnants of tiles were found in the early Western Zhou site in Fengzhu Village, Qishan, Shaanxi. However, at that time, the use of tiles was limited to the roof ridge, drainage channels, and some parts of the roof.

During the middle to late Western Zhou period, more tiles were discovered in the Zhaochen site, Fufeng, Shaanxi. Some roofs were completely covered with tiles, and the quality of tiles had improved, with the appearance of half-tiles and full-tiles. By the Spring and Autumn period (around 770-476 BC), tiles became widely used, and numerous plate tiles, barrel tiles, as well as some half-tiles and full-tiles, were found in various Spring and Autumn period sites such as the Homa Jin capital in Shanxi, the Eastern Zhou city in Luoyang, Henan, the Qin Yong city in Fengxiang, Shaanxi, and the Chu capital in Jiangling, Hubei. These tiles were often decorated with exquisite patterns, indicating the use of tiles for roofing.

During the Qin and Han dynasties, an independent pottery industry developed, and many improvements were made in the manufacturing process. For instance, the use of tile tenons made the interlocking of tiles more precise, replacing tile nails and tile noses. The craft made significant progress during the Western Han period, simplifying the process of making barrel tiles with round tile ends into a single step. The quality of tiles also greatly improved during this period, leading to the name “Qin bricks, Han tiles.”

The invention of tiles is a creation of the Zhou people, marking the ancient people’s transition from living in caves to building homes. In contemporary architecture, various types of tiles such as aluminum tiles, copper tiles, antique tiles, and metal tiles have emerged, each with its unique characteristics. They are favored for their environmental friendliness, durability, and antique appearance, which adds a classical charm to modern buildings. The design of these tiles can imitate ancient styles and add an aura of history to the building. Each piece of tile carries the memories of Chinese history and remains highly valuable in today’s society.

what are Chinese clay tile symbolizes?

In traditional Chinese culture, roof tiles are endowed with symbolic meanings of protection and blessings. In ancient architecture, roof tiles are installed on the roofs to form special eaves and decorative brackets, symbolizing the tranquility and auspiciousness of the household. Additionally, roof tiles also play a significant role in some religious buildings. For instance, in Buddhist temples, glazed tiles are considered as a medium of communication with the divine, carrying special religious significance.

The symbolic meanings of protection and blessings represented by roof tiles also extend to various cultural customs. In some traditional folk activities, people use roof tiles to pray for family safety, successful endeavors, and good health, among other wishes. Moreover, roof tiles are used to create various artworks, such as tile carvings and tile paintings, incorporating people’s blessings and well-wishes, conveying human emotions like family affection, friendship, and love.

In conclusion, roof tiles hold profound cultural connotations and symbolic meanings in Chinese traditional culture. They are not just building materials but also represent a cultural heritage, emotions, and a reflection of history.

In traditional Chinese culture, tiles are endowed with symbolic meanings of protection and blessings. In ancient architecture, special-shaped eaves and brackets are often installed on the roof, symbolizing the peace and auspiciousness of the family. At the same time, tiles also play a significant role in some religious buildings, such as the glazed tiles used in Buddhist temples, which are considered as a medium of communication with the divine.

In Chinese traditional culture, tiles are regarded not only as functional building materials but also as carriers of cultural and spiritual significance. The elaborate designs and shapes of roof tiles, including the flying eaves and decorative brackets, are not merely for architectural aesthetics but also hold symbolic meanings related to good fortune, protection, and blessings for the occupants of the building.

In religious contexts, especially in Buddhist temples, the use of special tiles like glazed tiles, particularly the iconic Chinese glazed tiles known as “琉璃瓦” (liulí wǎ), represents a spiritual connection between the material world and the divine. These tiles are believed to facilitate communication with deities and symbolize the sacredness of the place of worship.

Overall, tiles in Chinese traditional culture represent more than just roofing materials; they embody profound cultural and spiritual beliefs, adding a deeper layer of meaning to the architecture and reflecting the rich heritage of Chinese civilization.

clay tile in the Chinese palace

Yellow Glazed Roof Tiles Dominate the Main Palace Buildings

According to the feudal ceremonial system, yellow is an exclusive color for the royal family. Therefore, the roofs of the main palace buildings are covered with yellow glazed roof tiles. The grand palace complex, including the Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, Hall of Preserving Harmony, Hall of Literary Glory, Hall of Martial Valor, Hall of Mental Cultivation, Kun Ning Palace, East Six Palaces, West Six Palaces, all shine with brilliant golden hues, presenting a majestic and solemn atmosphere. Today, when standing on Jingshan Hill and overlooking the entire Forbidden City, layers of red walls enveloping the buildings, the most dazzling sight is the expanse of resplendent yellow.

Green Glazed Roof Tiles Accompany the Princes’ Growth

The South Three Palaces, also known as “A Ge Suo” or “Suo Er,” were where the Qing dynasty princes lived during their childhood, enjoying their parents’ love. After the age of ten, they were moved out of the palace and often resided in this place. Here, there are three identical courtyards, all featuring buildings with green glazed roof tiles. The courtyards are adorned with tall, straight trees and blooming flowers, creating a lively and vibrant environment. The young princes spent their early years in this rich and lively setting, enjoying special treatment and representing the hope of the future for the Qing dynasty.

Black Glazed Roof Tiles Highlight the Theory of Five Elements Confrontation

The Wen Yuan Ge, built in the 39th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1774 AD), was specially constructed to preserve the first annotated edition of the “Siku Quanshu” (Complete Library of the Four Treasuries). Its roof is covered with black glazed roof tiles. According to the ancient theory of the Five Elements, which includes metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, black corresponds to the element of water, which can control fire. Therefore, black glazed roof tiles are often used for storage rooms and libraries to symbolize fire prevention.

However, due to the special status of Wen Yuan Ge, monotone black cannot be used. Craftsmen ingeniously used green glazed roof tiles for the eaves, with a green base for the ridge, purple glazed tiles depicting dragons, and white lines inlaid with flower patterns. This combination of different glazed roof tiles creates the impression of green water, white waves, and purple dragons, giving a sense of coolness contrasting with the flames and emphasizing the symbolism of fire prevention.

Colorful Glazed Roof Tiles Most Abundantly Applied in the Forbidden City’s Nine-Dragon Screen

When it comes to the most exquisite use of glazed roof tiles in the Forbidden City, the Nine-Dragon Screen stands out. In the 37th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1770 AD), a single-sided glazed screen was specially built against the palace wall during the reconstruction of Ning Shou Palace. The entire screen consists of 270 glazed pieces, presenting a seascape as the background, with nine giant dragons playing with pearls above the sea surface.

The colors of the nine dragons include blue, purple, yellow, white, and black, with deep and solemn colors as well as bright and graceful ones. The lower part of the glazed screen is expressed in green to represent the profound depth of the sea, while white indicates splashing waves soaring into the sky, forming an ever-changing picture of surging waves. The close water complements the distant water, and the distant water complements the nearby waves, all setting off the nine dragons, making the whole scene look majestic and grand, as if one can hear the dragons roaring and the sea roaring.

clay tile in Buddhism

Temples are significant places in Buddhist culture and an integral part of traditional Chinese architectural culture. The architectural styles of temples are diverse, but regardless of the style, the roof is a crucial element. In traditional temples, roof tiles are vital building materials, not only serving as a key waterproofing component but also reflecting architectural styles and cultural connotations.

There are various types of tiles used in temples, with two of the most common being “hard mountain tiles” and “glazed tiles.” Hard mountain tiles are a traditional roofing material made from a mixture of lime, sand, water, and hemp rope, processed and molded in a special way. They are characterized by their hardness, resistance to damage, and excellent waterproofing properties, making them suitable for long-term use on temple roofs. The design of hard mountain tiles can be adjusted to match different temple styles, with options like intricate upturned corners, pointed tops, and glazed tile shapes.

Glazed tiles, on the other hand, are a distinctive roofing material commonly used in traditional temple architecture. Made from ceramics with a transparent glaze covering the surface, glazed tiles are aesthetically pleasing, glossy, and offer good waterproofing properties, adding an artistic touch to temples. The designs of glazed tiles are also diverse, allowing adjustments to suit the architectural style of the temple, with square, circular, hexagonal, and other shapes being common choices.

In addition to hard mountain tiles and glazed tiles, other roofing materials, such as cement tiles, metal tiles, and ceramic tiles, are also commonly used in temple architecture. These materials have different characteristics but all provide waterproofing, protection, and decorative elements for temple buildings.

Temple tiles are traditional building materials widely used in Buddhist temples and other structures. With the evolution of time and technological advancements, temple tiles continue to innovate and improve. This article introduces the types of temple tiles and their applications.

Types of Temple Tiles:

Qingwa (Green Tiles):

Qingwa is a type of tile made from high-quality clay, usually presenting a gray or bluish-gray color. The surface of Qingwa is smooth and delicate, offering both aesthetic appeal and excellent waterproofing and fire-resistant properties. It is widely used for roofing in temple constructions.

Huangwa (Yellow Tiles):

Huangwa is a common type of temple tile made from a mixture of clay and sand, fired at high temperatures. It features waterproofing, fire resistance, durability, and easy processing, allowing it to be cut into various shapes and sizes as needed.

Zhiwa (Purple Tiles):

Zhiwa is a rare type of temple tile mainly in purple color, also known as Zijinwa. It has a smooth surface and elegant overall appearance, making it suitable for architectural decoration. Due to the high-temperature firing process, it possesses excellent fire resistance and durability.

Applications of Temple Tiles:


Temple tiles are primarily used for roofing in Buddhist temple buildings. Different types of temple tiles can be selected for roofing based on various requirements and architectural characteristics. For example, Huangwa may be chosen for temples emphasizing structural stability, while Zhiwa or Qingwa could be used for temples with a focus on artistic effects.

Wall Decoration:

Temple tiles can also be used for wall decoration in Buddhist temple buildings. Through various combinations of colors, shapes, and sizes, temple tiles can achieve pleasing decorative effects, enhancing the overall aesthetics and artistic sense of the structure.

Enclosure Construction:

Temple tiles are also utilized in the construction of enclosures. The arrangement and combination of temple tiles can create visually appealing enclosure designs. Additionally, temple tiles possess excellent wind resistance, effectively strengthening the stability of the enclosure.

Interior Decor:

Inside Buddhist temple buildings such as shrines and halls, temple tiles can be used for interior decoration. Utilizing temple tiles in such spaces creates a solemn and elegant ambiance, immersing visitors in a serene and solemn atmosphere.

In conclusion, as traditional building materials, temple tiles continue to play an essential role in modern architectural design. With a wide variety to choose from, temple tiles offer characteristics like waterproofing, fire resistance, aesthetic appeal, environmental friendliness, and durability. They are widely applied in roofing, wall decoration, enclosure construction, and interior decor of Buddhist temple buildings. In practice, careful consideration of various factors is necessary when selecting appropriate temple tile materials and application schemes to achieve the best results. Additionally, efforts should be made to protect and carry forward temple tiles, promoting their development and making greater contributions to the construction industry.

Wishing Tiles

“Wishing Tiles” are a special type of tile commonly used for making wishes and prayers. In ancient temples or palace buildings, certain unique tiles were endowed with symbolic meanings, becoming mediums for making wishes and seeking blessings.

Wishing tiles are typically crafted from colorful clay and come in various shapes, such as hearts, circles, squares, and more. They are often inscribed with blessings or wishes. People believe that touching these tiles allows them to make wishes to the deities, entrusting their desires and blessings onto the tiles.

During important religious festivals or temple celebrations, people visit temples, especially those with a long history, to seek out these wishing tiles. They write down their wishes or blessings on the tiles and place them within the temple, hoping to receive divine blessings and have their wishes come true.

As a cultural custom, wishing tiles manifest in different forms across regions and various religions. However, in general, they all represent people’s beliefs in deities and their hopes for the future.

clay tile in Taoism

Roof tiles hold a significant role as essential artifacts in Taoism, where Taoists utilize them in crucial rituals such as alchemy, spiritual cultivation, spellcasting, and prayer. As a traditional building material, roof tiles possess characteristics of sturdiness, durability, and waterproofing, aligning perfectly with Taoism’s pursuit of eternity and perfection.

In Taoism, roof tiles carry special symbolic meaning. Their circular shape represents wholeness, completeness, and perfection. Moreover, roof tiles symbolize protection and blessings. During Taoist ceremonies, roof tiles are used to symbolize protection and supplication. Taoists inscribe their wishes and prayers onto the tiles, seeking divine blessings and protection.

In addition to their role as sacred artifacts, roof tiles are also used in Taoism for constructing Taoist temples and palaces. In Taoist temples, roof tiles are used to cover the rooftops, contributing to the unique Chinese architectural style. Furthermore, the use of roof tiles in building Taoist temples and palaces holds special symbolic significance, embodying the concept of harmony between heaven and earth, and the unity of man and nature.

In conclusion, roof tiles hold a vital place as sacred artifacts and building materials in Taoism. They not only represent protection and blessings but also symbolize wholeness, completeness, and perfection. Widely utilized in Taoist practices, roof tiles serve as essential tools for Taoists’ alchemy, spiritual cultivation, spellcasting, and prayers.

clay tile in Fengshui

Roof tiles can be placed in various colors, and each color carries different meanings:

Red roof tiles: Symbolize joy and auspiciousness, suitable for the position of the God of Wealth, idle corners, and outside the door. Placing red roof tiles can enhance the popularity and bring good luck to the household.

Yellow roof tiles: Symbolize wealth and prosperity, suitable for placement in the wealth corner or treasure basin. Yellow roof tiles can attract wealth and stabilize the household’s financial situation.

Green roof tiles: Promote health, peace, and tranquility, suitable for the bedroom and kitchen. Placing green roof tiles can improve the physical well-being of family members and foster harmonious relationships.

Purple roof tiles: Also known as “purple-gold tiles,” symbolize power and nobility. Suitable for placement in the study or office. Placing purple roof tiles can enhance career luck, bring more opportunities, and attract influential support.

Black roof tiles: Represent mystery and sanctity. Suitable for placement in the southern part of the master bedroom. Black roof tiles can absorb negative energy and protect the household’s safety and health.

How to Place Roof Tiles Reasonably:

The placement of roof tiles should be decided based on specific circumstances and should not be overly forced or haphazard. Here are some basic principles for placing roof tiles:

The color and position of roof tiles should align with Feng Shui principles. Different positions should have tiles of different colors. For example, green tiles are suitable for the kitchen, and purple tiles are appropriate for the study.

The quantity of roof tiles should be appropriate, neither too many nor too few. The number of tiles should be determined based on the specific situation and should not be arbitrarily increased or decreased. Generally, the more roof tiles there are, the stronger their influence on the Feng Shui of the home, but there should not be an excessive amount.

The arrangement of roof tiles should be orderly and not randomly placed. The arrangement should have a certain sense of order, and tiles should not be randomly placed. For example, tiles on a flat surface should exhibit symmetry and cross pattern effects, while tiles on the façade should show a gradual change from bottom to top.

Considerations for Placing Roof Tiles:

When placing roof tiles, the following points should be considered:

Roof tiles should not be used to cover up other Feng Shui problems. Roof tiles are only a method of adjusting Feng Shui and should not be used to mask other serious Feng Shui issues. If there are significant problems with the Feng Shui in the home, placing roof tiles will not be effective.

Do not blindly pursue the placement of roof tiles. Roof tiles can only have a Feng Shui effect when placed in the right position, with the appropriate quantity and color. Blindly pursuing the placement of roof tiles without considering these factors may have counterproductive results.

Avoid excessive superstition. Placing roof tiles is just one aspect of Feng Shui and should not be overly relied upon or made the primary guiding principle for one’s life.

In summary, the placement of roof tiles based on their colors is a traditional Feng Shui practice, which believes that different colored roof tiles on the rooftop can influence the Feng Shui of the home and consequently affect people’s fortunes and wealth. If considering placing roof tiles, it is essential to decide based on specific circumstances, adhere to basic principles, and be cautious not to blindly follow without proper considerations.

Green Roof Tiles

Chinese architectural culture is undeniably steeped in history and possesses its unique characteristics. Among the widely used elements, green roof tiles stand out. Green roof tiles are made from clay, processed through a series of complex techniques, resulting in aesthetically pleasing products. Contrary to the name, the color of green tiles is more of a dark or slate blue, commonly used to cover rooftops. Its significance in ancient Chinese architecture lies in the expression of “green surpassing blue,” symbolizing excellence and surpassing the ordinary.

The Investigation of the True Color of Green Roof Tiles

Looking back at China’s architectural culture, green roof tiles are undoubtedly an ancient material in the construction industry, with a history spanning almost three thousand years. Over the long history, green tiles have been continuously perfected, both in form and craftsmanship. Although ancient people referred to the color of green roof tiles as “青” (qīng), there was no precise definition for this shade. Almost any deep and cool color could be called “青,” including the most common black and gray. As for the color of green roof tiles, it varies depending on the firing process, with darker shades appearing as black, while lighter ones take on a gray hue. Hence, the term “青” encompasses the diverse color possibilities of the tiles.

The Beautiful Connotation of Green Roof Tiles

The most common saying about the color green is “青出于蓝而胜于蓝” (qīng chū yú lán ér shèng yú lán), which translates to “green comes from blue but surpasses blue.” In ancient texts, the word “蓝” (lán) does not solely refer to a color, as we would perceive it literally, but rather a plant or a shade heavier than green. “青出于蓝而胜于蓝” expresses the superiority of green over blue, symbolizing the aspiration of ancient people for a bright future and the hope that their descendants would achieve greatness and honor their family.

Ancient People Balancing Practicality and Symbolism

China boasts a profound history, encompassing thriving developments in architectural culture, agriculture, commerce, and more. While ancient people valued practicality, they also attached great importance to the symbolism in various aspects of life, including green roof tiles. Hence, green tiles became a typical representation of ancient Chinese architecture.

Pink Walls and Indigo Roof Tiles

Pink walls and indigo roof tiles are an essential part of architectural culture, describing the appearance of houses with snow-white walls and dark blue-green tiles.

In the water towns of the Jiangnan region, the majority of traditional dwellings are wooden structures with one or two stories in the form of halls. To adapt to the climate of Jiangnan, these houses often feature passageways, courtyards, and open spaces. The construction typically includes tiled roofs, hollow brick walls, and ornamental ridge decorations like Guanyin’s crown or a horse’s head, creating an architectural ensemble with varying heights, pink walls, indigo roof tiles, and profound courtyard designs.

The combination of pink walls and indigo roof tiles fully embodies the charm of Huizhou-style architecture. The buildings have upturned eaves, flying corners, pink walls, and indigo roof tiles, vividly showcasing its rich and distinctive cultural heritage. The layout of these structures often includes rockeries, sculptures, complemented by stone benches and tables amidst the vibrant flowers and lush greenery. The arrangement and architectural decorations exude the essence of classical Chinese gardens, exuding an artistic allure that has been perfected over time.

Chinese eaves tile

Tile finials, also known as “Wadang,” are architectural ornaments used in ancient Chinese buildings to cover the front end of the eaves of the tile roof. They can refer to either the front end of individual cylindrical tiles used to cover the eaves or the whole piece of tile placed at the front end of the roof. These finials were primarily used during the Eastern Han and Western Han periods to decorate and protect the eaves of buildings. The tile finials were carved with various designs, including texts, patterns, and depictions of the four mythical creatures “Zhuque” (Vermilion Bird), “Xuanwu” (Black Tortoise), “Qinglong” (Azure Dragon), and “Baihu” (White Tiger).

The design of tile finials is exquisitely beautiful, featuring fluid and flowing calligraphy and a wide variety of patterns, such as cloud motifs, geometric patterns, taotie motifs, Chinese characters, and animal motifs. They are considered delicate works of art and represent a unique cultural heritage of China.

Tile finials, also colloquially known as “Wadang” or “tile heads,” refer to the front ends of whole tiles. They are an essential component of traditional Chinese architecture, serving to protect the wooden eaves and beautify the roofline. Over different historical periods, tile finials displayed distinctive characteristics. During the Qin and Han dynasties, the motifs of tile finials were diverse, including mountain landscapes, birds, deer, badgers, fish, turtles, and various cloud patterns. The designs were realistic, simple, and lively, often depicting animals such as deer, four mythical creatures, swans, and fish, along with varying cloud patterns. The compositions were balanced and harmonious, and the overall appearance was dynamic and full of vitality. The craftsmanship of tile finials reached its peak during the Han dynasty. The motifs included the four mythical creatures, winged tigers, birds and animals, insects, plants, cloud patterns, inscriptions, as well as combinations of clouds and characters or clouds and animals. The layout of tile finials was sometimes separated into two sections by a central bead, and some featured inscriptions with one to twelve characters, conveying auspicious phrases like “Changle Weiyang” (Eternal Happiness), “Changsheng Weiyang” (Eternal Longevity), and “Yutian Wujie” (Infinite as Heaven). There were also inscriptions indicating the name and purpose of the building. During the Wei, Jin, and Southern and Northern Dynasties, tile finials became smaller in size, mainly featuring cloud patterns, and the use of inscriptions decreased. In the Tang Dynasty, lotus patterns became prevalent, while inscriptions on tile finials became scarce. The patterns of animal faces predominated during the Song Dynasty, and during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, dragon patterns were commonly used.

In summary, tile finials are an essential element of ancient Chinese architecture, serving both functional and artistic purposes. Their designs varied over different historical periods, reflecting the artistic achievements and cultural heritage of each era.

Chinese eaves tile made of

During the Han Dynasty, tile finials were primarily made of grey pottery. Based on their materials, tile finials can be categorized into three main types: grey pottery tile finials, glazed tile finials (also known as “liuli” tile finials), and metal tile finials. Grey pottery tile finials are the oldest and most common type, dating back from the Western Zhou to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and remained the predominant variety throughout this period.

Around the Tang Dynasty, glazed tile finials started to emerge. Glazed tile finials are made by applying glaze and firing it on clay tile bodies. They come in various colors such as blue, green, and yellow and were reserved for higher-ranking buildings.

During the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, a few buildings used metal tile finials. Metal tile finials were made from cast iron, brass, or gilded metal, and they added a unique touch to the architecture.

In summary, during different historical periods in China, tile finials were made from different materials, with grey pottery being the oldest and most widespread. Glazed tile finials, known as “liuli” tile finials, appeared later and featured a variety of colors. Some exceptional buildings during the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties even incorporated metal tile finials, made from cast iron, brass, or gilded metal.

Chinese eaves tile used for

Tile finials, also known as “tile heads,” refer to the specific part of clay-made tube tiles that hang down at the top end. “Wǎ” represents the arched clay piece used to cover roofs, and “dāng,” according to the explanation, refers to the bottom or base of the tile that fits under the eaves and aligns with the other tiles in a row. The overlapping arrangement of tiles gives rise to the term “tile finials.”

Tile finials serve as the top end of tiles used on ancient Chinese roofs, primarily fulfilling the functions of waterproofing, drainage, and protecting the wooden structure of the roof. In practical terms, they effectively prevent roof leaks and protect the eaves, while also enhancing the architectural aesthetics. Tile finials come in two main styles: circular and semi-circular. They are vital components of ancient Chinese architectural tile use.

The earliest discoveries of tile finials in China were concentrated in the Qishan Zhouyuan site of Shaanxi Province during the Western Zhou period. Most of these finials were plain semi-circular ones, with a few having concentric rings.

styles of Chinese eave tile

Tile finials, also known as “tile heads,” come in two main styles: circular and semi-circular (also called “half-tile finials”). Semi-circular tile finials were mainly used during the Qin and pre-Qin periods.

The designs on tile finials are often adorned with various patterns, including text finials, animal motif finials, plant motif finials, geometric pattern finials, and combination pattern finials (such as geometric pattern text finials, animal motif text finials, plant-animal motif finials, etc.). Some finials are left undecorated and plain.

During the early period, most of the tile finials were plain and semi-circular in shape, with some featuring heavy ring patterns. In the Warring States period, the seven states competed for supremacy, and each state used tile finials with distinct local characteristics. The prevalent finials were image-based, such as the tree and double-beast motif semi-circular finials unearthed from the Qiguo City of Linzi in Shandong, the Taotie motif semi-circular finials from Yanxiadu in Yixian County, Hebei, and the animal motif round finials from Yongcheng in Fengxiang, Shaanxi, as well as cloud and sunflower pattern finials unearthed from Xianyang in Xianyang. Among these, the animal motif finials from the Qin period are particularly remarkable.

From the Han dynasty onwards, cloud and sunflower pattern finials became popular. During the Han dynasty, tile finials reached their peak in both widespread use and artistic excellence, appearing in various regions. Besides the diverse cloud pattern finials, the Han dynasty saw the emergence of the most significant type of finials – text finials. These finials had a diameter ranging from 15 to 18.5 centimeters, with some smaller ones measuring 13 centimeters, while larger ones could reach 22 centimeters. Text finials served two main purposes: architectural-specific inscriptions, such as the “Changsheng Weiyang” finial from Ganquan Palace and the “Dinghu Yanshou Palace” finial from Emperor Wu of Han’s Lantian Palace, and praise and auspicious phrase finials, which were most numerous. Examples include “Qianqiu Wansui” and “Changsheng Wujie.” Some finials carried as many as twelve characters.

The art of tile finials during the Qin and Han periods was characterized by graceful and lively decorative patterns, ingenious design, and harmonious layout. The artwork of the animal motifs featured natural and lively depictions, showing the talent and wisdom of the Chinese people. Notably, the four divine creature finials from the Western Han period, such as the Qinglong (Azure Dragon), Baihu (White Tiger), Zhuque (Vermilion Bird), and Xuanwu (Black Tortoise) finials found in the vicinity of Chang’an city, were the highlights of image-based finials during that time. Representing the four cardinal directions, these divine creature finials were available in several different editions, displaying majestic compositions and exquisite craftsmanship.

Following the Eastern Han period, tile finial art declined, and with the introduction of Buddhism, text and image-based finials gradually lost their prominence. Instead, the lotus motif finials prospered, along with a few Buddha image finials. During and after the Song dynasty, tile finial art waned, and it completely lost its former splendor.


Initially, tile finials were plain, but as ancient people’s appreciation of architectural art improved, they began to feature various animal and plant decorations.

During the Qin period, tile finials displayed diverse patterns, including animal motifs, insect motifs, flying bird motifs, and plant motifs, among others. For example, there were motifs of the Kui (a mythical creature), deer, four mythical beasts, leopards, flying geese, phoenixes, cicadas, clouds, and trees, among others. Tile finial inscriptions, known as “Wén,” were commonly written in Qin seal script and Liáo seal script, with some using Lishu script. The characters were rich in variation, often curving gracefully and displaying a powerful and vigorous style. Some tile finials had over ten characters, while others had only one.

The prevalence of text finials during the Han dynasty was significant, and they were broadly categorized into two types. One type was exclusively used for buildings, such as the “Changsheng Weiyang” finial from Ganquan Palace and the “Dinghu Yanshou Palace” finial from Emperor Wu of Han’s Lantian Palace. The other type was composed of praise and auspicious phrases, with a wide variety of examples, including “Qianqiu Wansui” and “Changsheng Wujie.” Tile finials with four characters were more common, but some featured up to twelve characters.

The decorations on Qin and Han tile finials were aesthetically pleasing, with lively and vivid images and ingenious designs. The arrangement of the designs was well-balanced and well-coordinated, showcasing the artistic value of Chinese laborers. The unique style and various forms of Han tile finials added to their decorative appeal.

The four divine creature finials from the Western Han period were especially distinctive and displayed a unified artistic style when grouped together. The Dragon motif finial, with a diameter of 18.6 centimeters and a rim width of about 2 centimeters, featured a semi-relief carving of a Qinglong (Azure Dragon) with a robust body, open mouth, and imposing presence. In ancient times, the dragon was revered as the highest symbol of authority and divinity, and emperors were referred to as “True Dragon Sons of Heaven.”

The Tiger motif finial, with a diameter of 19 centimeters and a rim width of 2.1 centimeters, depicted a powerful tiger in a circular design. The tiger appeared fierce, with an open mouth and bared sharp teeth, its head and front paws opposed to its rear paws, and its tail curved upwards, cleverly filling the extra space, creating a harmonious composition.

The Vermilion Bird motif finial, with a diameter of 15.8 centimeters and a rim width of 2 centimeters, depicted the auspicious mythical bird, which was a combination of several flying birds such as peacocks, pheasants, and kingfishers. The Vermilion Bird motif finial featured rich colors, and its image evolved over time, reflecting the changes in the era. The Vermilion Bird in the finial grasped a precious pearl in its mouth, stood tall, and had an upturned tail, exuding majesty and fierceness.

The Black Tortoise motif finial, with a diameter of 18.5 centimeters and a rim width of 2.1 centimeters, depicted a tortoise in a crawling position, while a snake coiled around its body. The arrangement of the snake filled the extra space, giving the entire composition a compact and vivid appearance. This type of finial was not only used to indicate the direction on buildings but also for the Xuanwu Gateway.

The art of image-based finials gradually declined after the Han dynasty, with the lotus motif finials becoming more prevalent, along with a few Buddha image finials. From the Song dynasty onwards, tile finial art further declined, losing its former splendor entirely.

history of Chinese Eaves tile

Zhou dynasty

The invention of tiles dates back to the Zhou dynasty. In the mid-to-late Western Zhou period, tiles were already being used in buildings at the Zhouyuan site in Fufeng, Shaanxi. During the Warring States period, the flourishing urban construction industry led to the development of brick and tile pottery craftsmanship. Initially, tiles were semi-circular, known as “half-round tiles,” but during the Qin dynasty, they evolved into full circular shapes. The Han dynasty favored the use of round tiles. Tile production during the Han dynasty was more prosperous than in the Warring States period. Many renowned palatial buildings had dedicated kilns for firing bricks and tiles, allowing for specialized design and production. The themes of tile patterns were diverse, mainly consisting of auspicious motifs such as animals, coiled clouds, and text, and China’s earliest tiles date back to the Western Zhou period (11th century BCE to 771 BCE).

Spring and Autumn period

By the late Spring and Autumn period (770 BCE to 476 BCE), a relatively complete system of tile making had been established, and tiles became essential components of some large-scale buildings. Early tiles were mostly semi-circular and adorned with animal face motifs, but they gradually developed into other motifs such as coiled cloud patterns. Various vassal states during this period produced and used tiles with different patterns.

Qin dynasty

After the unification of the six states by Emperor Qin Shi Huang (221 BCE to 210 BCE), there were significant changes in tile patterns and themes, making them more diverse and colorful. During the Qin dynasty, various animal motifs were prevalent in tile designs.

Han dynasty

The Han dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE) was the heyday of tile craftsmanship. The tiles from this period were finely crafted, and the appearance of tiles decorated with seal script characters was a new development. These text tiles mostly used small seal script, with harmonious and symmetrical arrangements, displaying the rustic and robust artistic style of the Han dynasty. The texts often conveyed auspicious blessings, and their artistic appeal was comparable to delicate seals.

In the underground soil of the palace ruins to the north of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb, a massive tile with a Kui motif was unearthed, measuring 61 centimeters in diameter. Among all tiles found in China, this one was the largest and earned the title of the “King of Tiles.” It is currently displayed in the Shaanxi History Museum.

During the Qin and Han periods, calligraphy was widely applied on architectural structures. Tile finials, which are the downward parts of the eaves’ tile ridges used to protect the rafters from weathering, were adorned with patterns or texts during the Warring States period, especially in the Qin and Han dynasties. This not only reflected the progress in Chinese architectural art driven by socioeconomic development but also contributed to the cultural prosperity of society. Shaanxi, the capital region of the Qin and Han dynasties, has the highest number of Qin bricks and Han tiles unearthed since liberation. From Baoji to Tongguan, from northern to southern Shaanxi, including the ruins of Qin’s capital, Yongcheng, Xianyang, Lintong Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum, Han’s capital Chang’an, Han’s mausoleum, Ganquan Palace, and others, Qin and Han tiles have been excavated.

The Qin and Han tile shapes are mostly circular or semi-circular, divided into two types: text tiles and pattern tiles. Their face diameter generally ranges from 15 to 18 centimeters, with the largest tile discovered so far measuring 48 centimeters in height and 60 centimeters in width. The patterned tiles featured various motifs, including animal patterns, plant patterns, and geometric patterns, most of which were made during the Warring States and Qin periods. The Han dynasty also had pattern tiles, such as the “Four Spirits Tiles,” symbolizing the four cardinal directions (Qinglong, Baihu, Zhuque, and Xuanwu).

During the Han dynasty, text tiles became predominant. The development of text tiles was closely linked to the evolution of Chinese characters. Text tiles can be divided into two main categories: named tiles and auspicious phrase tiles.

Named tiles inscribed the names of buildings, such as palaces, official residences, and tombs. Examples include “Shanglin,” “Qiniangong Dang,” “Zongzhenggong Dang,” “Yuyang Qianqiu,” “Bafeng Shoucun,” “Pingle Gong A,” “Changling West Dang,” “Changling East Dang,” “Jingshi Cang Dang,” “Qiyuan Gong Dang,” and more.

Auspicious phrase tiles expressed people’s prayers for good fortune, such as “Yannian Yishou,” “Changle Wujie,” “Changsheng Wujie,” “Yuhua Xiangyi,” “Qianqiu Wansui,” “Yongshou Jiafu,” “Jiaqi Shijiang,” “Yongshou Wujian,” “Liu Chufan Xi,” and “Wansui Weiyang.” Other tiles had commemorative significance, such as “Han Bingshijie,” those expressing nostalgia, like “Changwu Xiangwang,” or used in private residences, ancestral temples, and tombs, such as “Mashi Diandang,” “Li” character tile, “Jin” character tile, “Zhong” character tile, “Yinshi Jiadang,” “Juyang Zhongdang,” “Zhongshang Dadang,” and more.

Text tiles often comprised four characters, but some had more, fewer, or just two characters. Examples of tiles with multiple characters include “Yumin Shishitian Di Xiang Yongan Zhong Zheng,” “Changle Weiyang Yannian Yongshou Chang,” “Qianqiu Wanshi Changle Weiyang Chang,” “Qianqiu Wansui Yudi Wuji,” “Wei Tianjiangling Yanyuan Wannian Tianxia Kangning,” and more.

Qin and Han tiles, especially text tiles, serve as crucial historical evidence and hold high academic value for studying architectural history and the evolution of characters. From a calligraphy perspective, they indicate that Chinese characters had artistic significance in addition to their functional purpose more than two millennia ago, enriching people’s living environment.

The stylistic characteristics of Qin and Han tiles include dignified and beautiful layout, appropriate positioning, and a prominent ideological connotation, making them highly unified in form and content. The structure of the characters exhibits a combination of ancient charm and contemporary relevance, inheriting tradition while also innovating. The calligraphy strokes are vivid, diverse, and harmoniously balanced, reflecting a high level of elegance and enriching the artistic language of Chinese calligraphy.

The “Six Dynasties” Roof Tiles

Roof tiles with decorative animal and lotus patterns were common in ancient Chinese architecture. The front face of these tiles featured various engraved designs and auspicious symbols. Initially, the roof tiles were mostly semi-circular, known as “half roof tiles,” but during the Qin and Han dynasties, fully circular roof tiles appeared and continued to be used thereafter. These ancient roof tiles, known as “瓦当” (wǎdāng), are unique components of China’s ancient architectural system, reflecting distinct historical and cultural characteristics, as well as aesthetic tastes. As a cultural heritage, they possess strong historical and regional significance. During the Six Dynasties period, the ancient capital city of Nanjing served as the political, economic, and cultural center. Through extensive archaeological work in Nanjing, numerous underground buildings from the Six Dynasties have been unearthed, and a large number of roof tiles with various animal and lotus patterns have been discovered. These artifacts provide valuable physical evidence for comprehensive research on the culture of the Six Dynasties. The following are descriptions of some of the most commonly unearthed roof tiles from this period:

Animal Face Pattern Roof Tile:

The diameter is 13 cm, the width of the edge is 0.9 cm, and the height is 0.9 cm. The tile features a wide upper part and a narrow lower part, resembling a tiger’s face. The eyes are shaped like droplets, slanting upwards, and the nose has a tall ridge extending straight to the forehead, with three lines on each side resembling tree branches. The mouth is wide open, with two contour lines outside and two long whiskers visible inside. Two small ears are present on the top of the head, and the face and mouth are decorated with rigid hair-like lines. A hole, about 0.8 cm in diameter, is drilled between the nose and the forehead.

Lotus Flower Pattern Roof Tile:

The diameter is 11.7 cm, the width of the edge is 1 cm, and the height is 0.8 cm. The central design features a nine-petal lotus flower with stylized mushrooms in each of the four sections separated by parallel lines. The roof tile has a convex chord pattern between the lotus design and the edge wheel. There is a hole, about 0.6 cm in diameter, in the center of the lotus flower.

Cloud Pattern Roof Tile:

The diameter is 13.8 cm, the width of the edge varies between 0.8 cm and 1 cm, and the height is 0.9 cm. The central design consists of a large “乳丁纹” (rǔdīngwén) surrounded by four symmetrical fan-shaped sections, each containing a simplified cloud pattern resembling a mushroom. A zigzag pattern band is present between the cloud pattern and the edge wheel. A hole, about 0.9 cm in diameter, is drilled on one side of the central “乳丁纹.”

Human Face Pattern Roof Tile:

These tiles generally come from the middle to the late stages of the Six Dynasties period, roughly corresponding to the Eastern Jin to Southern Dynasties period. They feature a high edge wheel, with the face distinctly lower than the wheel. The human face patterns are depicted with varying characteristics, such as some having a face shape with a wider upper part and a narrower lower part, while others lack a contour line. The eyes are typically droplet-shaped and slanting, with double or single lines framing them. The noses are short and convex, located in the center between the eyebrows. The mouths are open wide, showing fangs, and the facial perimeter is decorated with short, straight radiating lines representing hair. In the middle to late stages of the Six Dynasties period, human face patterns with Southern-style characteristics, depicting traditional Chinese ideas, gained prominence and evolved with new contemporary styles.

The Cultural Significance of Lotus Flower Patterns:

The popularity and enduring historical impact of lotus flower patterns are closely related to the widespread influence of Buddhism in China during the Six Dynasties period. In Buddhist art, the lotus flower symbolizes purity and auspiciousness, representing the “Pure Land” and the concept of being free from defilement. As Buddhism spread in China, the lotus flower became deeply integrated into people’s daily lives and various forms of art. The prevalence of lotus flower patterns in roof tiles can be attributed to the profound influence of Buddhism on the culture of that era.

Among the unearthed roof tiles from Nanjing, the human face pattern tiles are particularly valuable due to their rarity in other regions and their association with the Eastern Wu and Eastern Jin periods. However, their presence declines in later periods for reasons yet unknown, making them quite precious. The human face pattern tiles from different periods have varying characteristics, with more rigid and organized designs found in the early Eastern Jin period, while those from the late Eastern Jin to Southern Dynasties period exhibit more freedom and softness in their compositions. The lotus flower pattern tiles, on the other hand, are the most numerous and diverse type of roof tiles from the Six Dynasties period, with variations in central design and petal numbers. Their popularity coincided with the flourishing of Buddhism in the Southern Dynasties, making them common in daily life, as well as in Buddhist temples and artifacts.

In conclusion, the discovery of these roof tiles provides invaluable insight into the architectural and cultural heritage of the Six Dynasties period, revealing distinct stylistic and religious influences. The variations in design and symbolism reflect the evolution of art and cultural beliefs during this significant era in Chinese history.


In summary, Chinese tiles are a traditional building material with distinct Chinese characteristics. They come in various forms and colors and serve different purposes with unique features. Widely used in construction, they provide functions such as waterproofing, moisture resistance, and theft prevention. Moreover, they are utilized for architectural decoration, enhancing the beauty and elegance of buildings. Chinese tiles are an integral part of traditional Chinese architectural culture, showcasing diverse forms and colors, intricate craftsmanship, and extensive application. They are a brilliant gem in Chinese architectural heritage.

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