How To Build A Chinese Roof?

How To Build A Chinese Roof?
  • Author: Amanda Arnold
  • Posted On: November 24, 2021
  • Updated On: August 21, 2023

A roof with characteristic upward bends of corners is the most important part of a structure in the Oriental style. This gives the impression that the entire construction is grand and spectacular and that the roof is nearly weightless and floats in the air.

Traditional Chinese architecture is as old as Chinese civilization but is also unique worldwide, particularly in its multi-layered dugong structure. A Chinese roof has a set of interlocking wooden brackets that supports the massive roof, visual style in shape, size, and color.

Chinese head buildings’ upper constructions are typically embellished with complex carvings, numerous ornaments and mosaics, and images of legendary creatures that ward off evil spirits. It’s worth noting that clay sculptures originally served a more practical purpose: they kept the roof tiles from tumbling down.

What Are The Basic Characteristics Of Chinese Roof?

Chinese roof has timber jointing systems that are favored over metal fixing. The interlocking and overlapping columns and crossbeams made the roofs more intriguing.

Curved Shape Roof

The most distinguishing feature of Chinese roof construction is the upturned eaves on roof corners. The upturned roof design first arose during the Han Dynasty and remained the most common until the Song Dynasty.

The roof’s surface area was expanded by combining lines, curves, and upturned eaves. This design increased rainfall drainage and reduced snow weight, giving the architecture a unique beauty.

Roofs in southern China were often steeper than those in the north to allow better drainage, while roofs in northern China were more concerned with illumination and warmth.

Cupped Tiles Roof

The most frequent profiles for rounded tiles were arcs and semicircles. Place rows of cupped tiles on the roof, then rows of arched tiles spanning between them, their edges inside the cupped tiles, was the most common approach to interlocking rounded tiles.

Roofs in ancient China featured wide eaves that shielded the buildings below from all save the most violent wind-driven rain. This feature protected the internal pillars and brackets, often composed of stone or wood, from rainfall erosion.

The value of roof architecture for buildings was shown to vary. Hip roofs were generally employed for imperial palaces, with resting hill roofs for official buildings, hanging hill roofs for better-off establishments, and hard hill roofs for public structures.

Basic Types Of Chinese Roof

There are four basic Chinese roofs: resting hills roofs, hanging hills roofs, hip roofs, and hard hills roofs. Let’s start discussing each type in detail:

1) Hanging Hill Roof

The two overhanging slopes of a hanging hill roof are straight. After hip roofs and resting mountain roofs, they were in the third grade.

They were one of China’s most popular roof designs, especially for more affluent establishments. The eaves overhang the gable walls by three-tenths of their height, which is the most noticeable characteristic.

2) Hip Roof

Hip roofs, slanted on both sides, were the most elegant traditional roof design and were employed for special projects.

Hip roofs were divided into two types: single-eave and double-eave. Double eaves were only utilized in royal palaces and Confucian temples during the Ming and Qing periods. The grandest example is the roof of the Forbidden City’s Hall of Supreme Harmony.

3) Resting Hills Roof

Hip roofs were second in importance to resting hills, which had two curving sides. Important halls, temples, parks, and other governmental structures were mostly constructed with them.

The resting roof came in two varieties: mono-eave and double-eave. The Forbidden City’s Hall of Preserving Harmony has a resting mountain roof with twin eaves.

4) Hard Hill Roof

The gable walls of hard hill roofs had high, sloping ridges and the main ridge. It was a straightforward design with two slopes facing the front and back.

Hard hill roofs were largely employed in common houses throughout the Ming and Qing eras and were considered a low-grade roof design in China.

How To Build An Ideal Chinese Roof?

A native craftsman is best for putting a Chinese roof on a pergola. However, sticking to the original design is not always achievable because paying for or finding one in your city would be impossible. Still, it is certainly possible when dealing with column structures.

There’s also an adaptable version of the Chinese roof that’s simple to construct with readily accessible materials. The original Chinese roof is not installed on the rafters.

In China, most buildings built using traditional technologies lack load-bearing walls. The rafter system has been modified for this purpose. For the base and roof deck, available flexible materials were utilized. They allow you to minimize the stress on the entire system while maintaining your fitness.

This variation has a similar appearance to the original. However, it is significantly less expensive. As a result, before constructing the project with your own hands, you must first select if the original or a copy will be built.

What Are The Purposes Of Chinese Roofs?

Improved Drainage Of Water

The surface area of the roofs was expanded by the geometric pattern of lines, curves, and upturned eaves. This plan not only reduced the snowfall and increased the drainage of rainfall, but it also gave the building a unique beauty. For better drainage, southern Chinese roofs are often steeper than northern Chinese roofs, whereas northern Chinese roofs focus more on illumination and warmth.

Strengthen The Structure

The wide eaves of traditional Chinese roofs might protect the walls below from all but the most ferocious wind-driven rain. Due to this feature, the internal pillars and brackets, often formed of stone or wood, were shielded from rainwater-related degradation.

Show the Importance Of Building

The roof architecture showed several levels of significance for structures. Hip roofs were widely employed on imperial palaces, while resting hill roofs, hanging hill roofs, and hard hill roofs were utilized on official buildings, better-off premises, and civil structures. Institutional standards for roofs had to be met.


As seen from the preceding, building a Chinese roof differs from the conventional methods employed in our nation for decades. We have discussed a few expert recommendations to assist you in figuring out how to construct a simple Chinese roof yourself.

Only when you’ve grasped the intricacies of the system and the application of roofing material can you begin planning the layout of a full-fledged Chinese roof?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the traditional names for Chinese roofs?

The xieshan roof style, commonly called the hip-and-gable roof style in China, was developed from the hip roof during the Eastern Han era. Most of the time, it is used to build palaces, temples, gardens, and other official structures.

Why do Chinese roofs have curves?

Evil spirits dislike curves, and people used to think that because of the roof’s sharp angle, they would fall off if it had a curved roof. As a result, curving roofs are frequently seen in Japanese and Chinese architecture.

What are the basic purposes of building Chinese roofs?

Roofs play a significant role in Chinese architecture since they shield buildings from the weather and symbolize something deeper. For instance, temple roofs are curved because Buddhists thought that doing so helped ward off evil spirits, who were thought to manifest themselves as straight lines.

Avatar photo
Author: Amanda Arnold

Amanda has been working with ConstructionHow since 2021. Her experience spans over 5 years in the creative niche such as home decor and trends, landscaping, renovations, and custom architectural values. As a home designer expert, she has a keen eye for the latest home improvement trends with accurate facts that readers find impossible to ignore. Being invested in home-building trends is how she has gained her lucrative expertise exploring more to bring a positive ambiance for all homeowners (and even tenants!). Currently, she lives in a beautiful beach home, a source of fascination for her.