The Horse-Head Wall
What is the Horse-Head Wall? If you visit the Yin Yu Tang you will see some decorated protruding portions on the tops of both side walls which are higher than the rooftop. This extended portion of the wall is yet another Hui Style form, called the “Horse Head Wall” since its protruding part looks like a horse’s head. Please see slideshows.
The primary purpose of the wall is to prevent any fire from spreading from one house to another since Hui style homes were typically close to one another.
The decorative horse head is an example of a “Ridge Decoration.” A “Ridge Decoration” is another trademark of traditional Chinese buildings. They are adorned with only the ‘luckiest’ animal creatures such as the Chi Wen (a legendary auspicious creature), lion, phoenix, Seahorse, Mischievous Fish, and Suan Ni (another legendary auspicious creature). Since traditional Chinese constructions throughout history were primarily wooden, their susceptibility to fire was extremely high. As a result, many ‘lucky creatures,’ considered fire-preventive gods, including the Chi Wen(Please see slideshow), Seahorse, and Suan Ni, (Please see slideshows) were used as decorations to protect against fire.
Why does the YYT house use the horse head then? According to feudal law, common people were not permitted to use ‘lucky creatures’ reserved for use by imperial buildings and higher ranking official buildings. The variety and number of animals permitted were strictly regulated by law. Thus common people across the country began creating their own ‘lucky creatures’ for the ‘Ridge Decorations’. In the Hui Zhou area, the most famous Ridge Decorative was the “Horse-Head”.