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HOME : Chinese Art : Ming Dynasty : Pair of Ming Dynasty Glazed Terracotta Fu Lion Roof Tiles
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Pair of Ming Dynasty Glazed Terracotta Fu Lion Roof Tiles - PH.0302
Origin: China
Circa: 1368 AD to 1644 AD
Dimensions: 12" (30.5cm) high x 8" (20.3cm) wide
Style: Ming Dynasty
Medium: Glazed Terracotta

Location: United States
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The Ming dynasty, officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China ruled by Han Chinese. Literature, painting, poetry, music, and Chinese opera of various types flourished during the Ming dynasty. Especially, the period was renowned for ceramics, porcelains and glazed terracotta.

During the Ming Dynasty, the glazed terracotta tiles were used to decorate important buildings such as palaces and temples. The ridges and eaves were often decorated with popular gods, powerful warriors and fantastic animals. This artwork, which depicts a pair of Fu Lions (also known as Chinese Guardian Lions or Fu Dogs), through elaborate sculptures and colorful glaze, is part of the Ming Dynasty architecture. With increased trade during the Han dynasty and cultural exchanges through the Silk road, lions were introduced into China from the ancient states of Central Asia. In Chinese culture, they seemed appropriately regal beasts to guard the emperor's places and were gradually incorporated as guardians.

As the guardians, Fu lions have traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, Imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy, and were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits. They are also used in other artistic contexts, for example on roof tiles, door-knockers, and in pottery. This guardian lions usually depicted in pair of female and male, a manifestation of yin and yang. Symbolically, the female lion representing yin protects those dwelling inside and soul, while the male representing yang guards the structure as the external material elements. They functioned as guardians, defeating evil spirits and attracting blessings or good fortune. Fu Lions continue to be a popular symbol of luck and happiness.

These Ming tiles depict Fu Lions are astonishingly well preserved, even though it once adorned on the roof of a building. It is a kind of Ming Sancai, which is made by using a technique called Fahua. The craftsmen of the Ming Dynasty used both cast frames and manual work to create this delicate design and baked at a high temperature. This was then painted in splendid green, yellow and blue glazes and baked again at low temperatures. Other Ming dynasty terracotta tiles in the shape of dragons, symbolic characters, horses and riders can also be seen in Barakat collection. - MK

(Reference: Clarence Eng. Colours and Contrast : Ceramic Traditions in Chinese Architecture. Brill, 2014; Timothy Brook. The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.)
- (PH.0302)


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