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Roofs of Ancient Chinese Architecture

Even though it may not seem like roofs are an important part of Chinese architecture, they are very important. Roofs did not only protect residences from the elements, they also had a deeper meaning. For example, temple roofs were curved because the Buddhist believed that it helped ward off evil spirits which were believed to be straight lines. The temple's roof is also made of glazed ceramic tiles and has an overhanging cave distinguished by a graceful upward slope. The arc at which the roof turns comes from the intricate fit of rafters. They used rods of short rafters that melt together Even wealthy homes had elaborate roofs.

One perfect example of splendid roofs would be located inside the wonderful palace, The Forbidden Palace. The thirteen tombs all have roof tiles which are a brilliant yellow, green, and red. The ridges of each roof carries figurines and/or mythical creatures. The curve of each roof can be no more than a sweep and the most intricate designs on the roof are almost always pointing south-east. However, there aresome down sides to having all of these decorations of the roof. The tremendous weight could eventually bring down the entire complex. That is why the Chinese have added an additional colonnade to support the weight under the outer edges, reducing the bracket system to mere decorations. The brackets are decorated by elaborately painting them with bright colors and eye-popping designs.

Ancient Chinese artisans ingeniously made the heavy roofs of buildings look light and graceful by forming the ridges and eaves into curves, and making the four corners stick up. The style of a roof can be divided into four basic types: fudian(wings), xieshan(hip and gable), xuanshan(hard gable), which denote a roof with a single layer, several layers, four corners and many corners. All these make the huge roof an important component of ancient Chinese architecture with an outstanding artistic image.

In order to impart lightness and grace to pillars, the diameters of the upper ends or both ends of upright pillars are slightly reduced, making them look like weaving shuttles. Beneath the pillars, stone foundations are needed to prevent humidity from underground eroding the wooden pillars. The foundations are often carved with decorative patterns. With the same purpose in mind, the two ends of the beams and crossbeams are given downward-pointing curves, giving them the shape of a crescent moon; thus they are called "crescent roof beams." The protruding parts of the roof beams are carved into various, such as branches and leaves,and geometric figures.

The entrance doors of ancient structures are mostly made of wood with several upright wood boards connected side by side by horizontal wooden planks attached to them by iron nails. The heads of the iron nails are arranged on the doors in a regular order, and the color of the nail heads is different from that of the doors , which make them a special decoration.In addition, the knockers and handle rings on the doors are thenselves made into ornaments bearing different patterns. To make the pasting of the paper easier, wooden window lattices forming various complicated patterns, including geometric figures and plants, were installed.

As for open-air terraces and their balustrades,whether made of stones or bricks, their foundations, the partitions between each balustrade, the column heads of the balustrades and other components are all carved with artistic decorations. Even the bricks and stones left over after the construction of houses are piecced together into different designs according to their shapes and colors, to decorate the grounds around the houses.

The decorationson ancient Chinese structures have cultural connotations as well as esthetic ones. The dragon heads on the edges of roof ridges signigy the spurting of water to douse fires. The dragon, phoenix, tiger and tortoise were regarded as sacred animals by the ancient Chinese, and they carved images of them on eave tiles which were exclusively used on imperial structures. The emperors were supposed to be descendants of dragons, so there are images of dragons all over imperial structures, from balustrade column heads, terrace steps and stone foundations of pillars to roof beams, paintings on ceilings and carvings on doors and windows. Symbols denoting happiness, honor and longevity can be seen everywhere on traditional Chinese structures, includingpalaces, temples, gardens, residences, gateways, windows and roof beams. Bats represent happiness, deer stand for honor, and pines, cranes and peaches represent longevity. In addition, there are various pattterns made by putting Chinese characters together, like the combination of the characters meaning happiness, longevity and ten thousand.

Ancient artisans were also good at using colors to decorate buildings. In the Forbidden City, stretches of yelow glazed tiles glitter under the blue sky, and there is a pleasing contrast between the dark green used beneath eaves, red doors, windows and walls,and white terrace foundations.Structures in private gardens in the south rend to have white walls, gray bricks and black tiles.Roog beams and pillars are usually left unpainted.Standing in harmony with the surrounding green vegetation, these structures create the simple and refined atmosphere beloved by the literati of old.

Relative Topic
- Imperial Roof Decoration 

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