Swallowtail roofs 燕尾 are a very prominent part of the traditional Minnan architecture that originated in China’s Fujian province and Taiwan. This type of architectural decoration was dubbed “swallowtail” because it consists of ornate sickles that curl up into the air at the ends of a roof’s ridge which resembles — surprise — the tail of a swallow. The style was initially a sign of wealth and prosperity — reserved for temples, the homes of officials, scholars, and the wealthy — and the complexity of the roof’s “tail” was an indicator of the status of the person residing within, though later on the style was popularized. Today, swallowtail roofs can still be found on many older buildings in this region.
Many of the traditional houses and temples on Taiwan’s Kinmen Island — which is traditionally a Minnan area once a part of China’s Fujian province — are decked out with swallowtail roofs. The village of Shui Tou has many notable examples, and the first set of photos below were taken there.
The next set of photos show examples of swallowtail roofs on the temples and shrines in Jincheng, the main city of Kinmen.