Chinese imperial roof decoration or roof charms or roof-figures (æªç¸ / æªå…½; Pinyin: yÃ¡n shÃ²u) or (èµ°ç¸ / èµ°å…½; Pinyin: zÇ’u shÃ²u) or (è¹²ç¸ / è¹²å…½; Pinyin: DÅ«n shÃ²u) was only allowed on official buildings of the empire. Chinese roofs are typically of the hip roof type, with small gables.
"In the year 283 BC, the tyrant Prince Min of the state of Qi, after being defeated by a combination of other states, was strung up to the end of a roof ridge and left hanging there without food and water, exposed to the sun until he died. To stigmatize his evils deeds, the people placed a effigy riding a hen, on the roofs of their houses. With the weight of the prince, the hen cannot fly down. To prevent the hen from escaping over the roof, a qiwen was placed at the other end of the ridge. It was not until the time of Ming Emperor Yongle that other figures were added. A correct set would be in this order â€“ hen, dragon, phoenix, lion, unicorn, celestial horse. If more is required, any one can be repeated except the hen and the qiwen, but always so as to form an odd number up to eleven - odd number comes under influence of Yang. Over time, the arrangement and number of figures departed from the originalâ€¦."
--- C.A.S. Williams say in his book Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs.
Number of those figures imply the social position, or say the power, of the house owner.