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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Dynasty : Tang Sculpture of a Spirit Guardian
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Tang Sculpture of a Spirit Guardian - H.1063
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 15.25" (38.7cm) high
Collection: Chinese Art
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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Originating during the Six Dynasties period (222-589 A.D.), this type of figure is known as a tomb guardian, for originally, a pair of such figures always stood guard at the tombs of Chinese rulers. Traditionally, both figures in the pair are mythological composite creatures, one always an amalgamation various animals while the other combined of human and animal traits. 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. These guardians were interred in order to ward off potential tomb robbers or evil spirits that might try to infiltrate the tomb. While just half of a pair, this guardian stands alone, revealing the exotic beauty of these fantastical creatures.

This mythological beast combines the body and face of a feline with the legs and hooves of a horse. Undulating fiery waves rise from his arms, alternately painted green with a black stripe or left unadorned, culminating in a large orange peak that rises from his head. From in between his ears that appear almost like fish fins, rises an undulating antler and a segmented black horn, both framed by the orange flame behind. The bright polychrome that covers this sculpture is remarkably intact. His shoulders are painted orange and his legs and face are adorned with the black stripes of a tiger. A gorgeous floral pattern rendered in orange, green, and black decorates his chest. His snarling face, complete with tiny fangs, has been expertly rendered, conveying a determined expression that is fierce and intimidating. Although this work was supposed to frighten away intruders, the masterfully delicate sculpting and gorgeous colors prove far more attractive than repelling.
- (H.1063)


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