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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Dynasty : Tang Gilt Sculpture of a Spirit Guardian
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Tang Gilt Sculpture of a Spirit Guardian - H.771
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 18.5" (47.0cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Painted 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. An undulating form similar to a blade rises out of the back of his head, in between the large pair of antlers that emerges from the top of his head, next to its upright ears that look almost like fish fins. The bright polychrome that covers this sculpture is remarkably intact. His shoulders are painted orange with black spots of a Bengal leopard while his chest is decorated with a delicately detailed floral pattern rendered in red, orange, and green. Most remarkable, his kneecaps have been gilt. His face has been expertly rendered, conveying a determined expression that is both 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.771)


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