The feline headed beast and humanoid sculptures
date from 618 – 906 AD. These two figures are
excellent representatives of Spirit Guardians and
Mingqi from the Tang Dynasty. Mingqi is a general
terms used in Chinese art referring to objects
specifically created for interment in the tombs of
elite individuals in order to provide for the afterlife.
Chinese spirit guardians are understood to have
come in pairs and stood guard over the tombs to
ward off any evil-sprits or robbers.
Although these works are supposed to be frightful,
the masterfully delicate sculpting of their flaming
heads and the gorgeous colors of their Sancai glaze
prove more attractive than repelling. Protrusions of
horns and flames emerge from their body,
remarkably still in tact considering their fragility.
Perhaps the most stunning feature of this pair is
their back, elegantly painted in orange and black
stripes like a tiger. What further sets this pair apart
is the unusual presence of a small turtle. Not
typically seen at the base of guardian figures the
appearance of this amphibian might allude to a
ruler, but the substantiated significance has been
lost to over the centuries.
The guardians both sit on pedestals with snakes
slithering across their feet, a formidable site for any
wayward spirit or tomb robber passing by.
Generally, guardian figures are understood to be
mythological composite creatures, one always a
combination of various animals, while the other
combined of human and animal traits. In the case
the animal figure appears to be a combination of a
large cat, dragon with ox hooves, while the
humanoid guardian is a mixtures of human, some
sort of four legged animal and again with ox