What Animal Lives on Your Roof?

What animals have you got on your roof? Have you got stray kitties? Various birdies? What about mosquitoes? Well, let’s hope that you do not have the last one. In the ancient Oriental land, the emperors have quite some interesting animals on their roofs, did you know about them? So today let’s talk about these special cultural icons, the ridge animals. They are the permanent residents of the rooftop of some magnificent buildings in China, they replaced the regular tiles, adding aesthetic and function to these architectures.

If you have visited some oriental buildings from China, Japan, Korea, etc., you may have seen some rather curious shapes on the rooftops, they resemble animals, and sometimes people. These are very unique decorations that exists in the Eastern world, and they not only secure the structure of the roof, functions as lighting rods in some situations, but also demonstrate the level of authority in this very building.

This illustration describes the roof of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, Forbidden City, Beijing

There are usually odd numbers 3, 5, 7 or 9 animals on the each side of the ridges, the higher the level, the more animals there are. The fairy riding phoenix at the front only appears on high-level buildings. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the only one in existence that has 10 animals.

Have you ever wondered what these animals are? Let’s take a look one by one.

Fairy riding phoenix

This marks the beginning of the ridge animals, legend says that the phoenix saved the life of an emperor in the Qi Dynasty, and since then this tradition was kept to seek blessing, protection and fortune.


The dragon is an ancient magical creature, it controls rainfall and brings great fortune.


The creature of virtue, bringer of harmony and happiness.


The symbol of authority, justice, and bravery.

Sky Horse

Capable of chasing the sun, can bring light to the earth.

Ocean Horse

Can turn a situation into an auspicious one, together the sky horse, they demonstrate the virtue and authority of the emperor can reach the heaven and the ocean.

Suan Ni

Magical creature, can eat tigers and lions, leader of all animals. It has a dragon head, love fire.

Xia Yu

Magical ocean creature, bringer of water, protects structures from fire damage.

Xie Zhi

Magical Unicorn, known to come from the Northeast, very loyal, strong, and just.

Ox (Dou Niu)

One type of dragon, ox head with scales. They are known to control water, they also create clouds when it rains.

Xing Shi

Unique to the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the image resembles that of the god of thunder in China, with the bird beak and wings. Perhaps it protects the building from thunder strikes.

Now you have great trivia knowledge, if you win the next pub game, remember to give me a thank 😉

Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!

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