World Showcase has always been a place filled with wonders. Sometimes these are monumental wonders, the eye catching facades of each pavilion, while other times they are piece of Epcot history lost to all but those who know where to look. Then there are the minute wonders, the small details that prove no detail is too small or unimportant, but that could definitely be overlooked or not seen at all, depending upon whether or not a guest was paying attention. Take, for instance, the roof corners throughout the China pavilion.
The ornate beauty of the China pavilion is easy to grasp no matter where you are looking. From entrances guarded by a pair of foo dogs to the gorgeous color schemes and fine detail of the murals scattered about the pavilion, no corner has been cut to showcase the grandeur and beauty. The figurines set atop the corners, however, are easy to glance past. Guest can see a dragon or maybe a lion, marvel at the intricate details from afar, and then move on. Yet, there is so much more to this tale.
The more figures a roof could hold, or that an occupant could procure, the higher in standing the family or status of the building was believed to have been. The figures could be many types of creatures covering everything from dragons, phoenixes, and qilin (a mythical type of unicorn/deer/ox/fish hybrid) to the more grounded lions and horses. Each figure provided its own form of protection for the house, such as a dragon being a protection against water. Perhaps the most puzzling of all figures, however, is the figure that sits front and center more often than not, the figure of a man riding on the back of a chicken or hen.
No, you didn’t read that wrong and if you’ve ever tried to deduce what you were looking at perched upon the corner of the China pavilion’s rooftops, now you know.
There are many legends about where this figure comes from. The most common of which is the tale of Min Wang. It is said that Prince Min reigned for 18 years, over 2,200 years ago, but that it was a catastrophic reign that eventually led to the Prime Minister calling for his execution. So horrible was his rule, that the orders actually included that he have his skin peeled off and for Min to be hung from the roof of his ancestral temple for three days. It is said that his successors placed a ceramic figurine of Prince Min on the roofline in order to ward off his evil spirit should it ever decide to return for vengeance.
You might be wondering where does that leave the chicken? One common thought is that since it is technically impossible for a man to ride a chicken and since a chicken does not have a true ability to fly, then there is no chance that Prince Min could ever escape from atop the building and his duty to protect it. Additionally, all those other creatures that are in line behind him, they are there to make certain that he cannot run off.
The figures the perch high atop the roofs through World Showcases China pavilion could be there as status or protection, history or legend, or perhaps a bit of all of these things. One thing is for certain, there is never a detail small enough to escape the attention of the Imagineers who continue to refine their world-building skills.