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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Dynasty : Tang Dynasty Terracotta Spirit Guardian
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Tang Dynasty Terracotta Spirit Guardian - PH.0289
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 907 AD
Dimensions: 19" (48.3cm) high x 8" (20.3cm) wide
Collection: Chinese Art
Style: Tang Dynasty
Medium: Terracotta

Location: Great Britain
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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 cultural interchange.

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
- (PH.0289)


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