In the history of China, Tang Dynasty
is regarded as a golden age that
achieved political stability, economic
affluence, and cultural prosperity.
Unified a huge continent, Tang has
expanded its borders and absorbed
foreign cultures based on its identity
as a unified country established by
the Han and Sui Dynasty, completing a
refined and international culture, and
contributed to the formation of East
Asian cultures by spreading it to
neighboring countries such as the
Korean Peninsula and Japan. During the
Tang Dynasty, poetry and literature
were greatly developed by enlightened
rulers, and the artworks of the Tang
reached a new level of sophistication.
The Silk Road, which runs from Xi'an),
the capital of Tang, through the
Western Regions to Byzantium Empire,
established wealth through the
revitalization of trade, and
furthermore. It helped create new
ideas and exotic cultures through the
This type of figure is known as an
Animal Tomb Guardian, for originally,
a pair of such figures always stood
guard at the tombs of Chinese rulers.
These guardians are a general type of
Chinese art known as mingqi. Mingqi
were any of a variety of objects
specifically created for interment in
the tombs of elite individuals in
order to provide for the afterlife.
Most tomb guardians were not modeled
after a real animal, but rather an
imaginary creature that combined the
characteristics of various beasts to
create fear through fierce features.
These were made in order to ward off
potential tomb robbers or evil spirits
that might try to infiltrate the tomb.
The animal guardians as part of the
retinue of tomb figures began in the
Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) and
continued into the Tang dynasty.
Generally, the tomb guardians,
produced during the Tang Dynasty,
kneels on their hind legs and stands
their front legs in a dignified
manner. This guardian stands alone,
revealing the exotic beauty of these
fantastical creatures. This
mythological beast combines the face
of anthropoid with the legs of
reptilia. Especially, the wide-spread
eyes, sharp teeth, and emphasized
claws are suitable for performing the
functions of a protecting the tomb.
Although this work was supposed to
frighten away intruders, the
masterfully delicate sculpting proves
far more attractive than repelling.
This statue in the collection of the
Barakat Gallery is masterpieces of
Tang Dynasty, a period of economic
prosperity and cultural growth. - MK