Dougong 斗拱


A Nailless Chinese Construction Arts



Dougong 斗拱

Dougong is a unique structural element used in traditional Chinese architecture to support the weight of the temple’s roof and transfer the weight to the column and foundation. It supports the frame of the roof purely using interlocking wooden brackets set into columns and beams without any nail. More than an independent art, the simple technique is durable and quick to assemble.

A Dougong is made of multiple layers of bracket sets. They are created by placing a trapezoidal wooden block ("dou") onto a column to form a solid base. Another wooden bracket ("gong") is then inserted into the dou to support either a wooden beam, or another gong and roof eaves.

As multiple dougong brackets are added, the weight of the roof compresses the joints and distributes the weight evenly throughout the structure. This way, individual elements are not prone to splitting or cracking and the system of interlocking beams cannot be shaken apart or shattered under stress.

The dougong pieces need to be slightly modified as more layers of dougong are added, but the core principle remains the same throughout. The system creates an incredibly robust structure which sits lightly on the floor without needing to be sunk into the ground.