Tomb Guardians

Tomb Guardians

鎮墓獸

early 700s

Part of a set. See all set records

Glazed earthenware, sancai (three-color) ware

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.)

Gift of various donors to the department of Asian Art (by exchange) 2000.118

Fun Fact

These guardians were meant to keep the tomb safe as well as contain the soul of the deceased.

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.

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