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Tomb Guardians

鎮墓獸

early 700s
Part 1: 92.3 x 43.8 x 41.9 cm (36 5/16 x 17 1/4 x 16 1/2 in.); Part 2: 88.9 x 41 x 50.8 cm (35 x 16 1/8 x 20 in.)
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Did You Know?

Sancai (three-color) glazes in green, amber, and transparent white, plus expensive cobalt blue glaze, show the high social status of the tomb’s occupant.

Description

With their fierce expressions and exaggerated physical features, these two fantastic guardian creatures were intended to guard the entrance to a tomb, warding off evil as well as keeping the soul of the deceased from wandering. Known as "earth spirits" or qitou, they are markedly different in appearance: one has an animal face and a pair of antlers growing above its eyebrows; the other sports a human face with huge protruding ears and a short horn surrounded by fiery, twisting hair. Their many elongated spikes heighten the fearful intensity.

Before tomb sculptures were placed in the tomb, they were carried through the streets in a funerary procession. Funerary gifts provided the deceased with means for the afterlife. They were also an expression of filial piety and demonstrated the wealth and power of the descendants.
Tomb Guardians

Tomb Guardians

early 700s

China, probably Shaanxi province, Xi'an, Tang dynasty (618-907)

Videos

Tomb Guardians - Chinese language version

Tomb Guardians

Earth Spirits

Conservation Examination

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