Roodloft from ’s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Roodloft from ’s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

The yellow-glazed roof tiles are in the form of fish-dragons and date from about 1500-1650, during the rule of the Ming dynasty in China. They would have been placed at the end of the main ridge of a sloping roof.

The fish-dragons, with their pronounced jaws, illustrate a popular legend about the dragon living in the East Sea. It was believed that rain fell whenever the monster opened its jaws to spout water. The presence of fish-dragons on the roof was therefore meant to protect against lightning and fire.

Most traditional Chinese buildings have ornaments on the roof ridges or corner ribs. These roof tiles were probably made for a minor palace or temple hall in Tanjin, in Hebei Province in northern China. In this part of China the roof ridge is usually straight but the ribs at the ends of the gables tilt slightly upwards. The fish-dragons were almost certainly made in Hebei, where tiles have been produced since the 6th century and are still made today.