Earthenware ceramic figure with tri-color glaze (in amber, cream and green) in the form of a creature with a human face
Relics from one of the golden eras of Chinese art and culture, these fierce beast figures were always placed in pairs in tombs that often contained numerous ceramic figures of humans, animals, and supernatural creatures. Because of their position near the tomb entrance and their ferocious demeanor, such figures are thought to have been sentinels protecting the deceased from evil spirits.
Developed during the Six Dynasties period (222 - 589), spirit beast pairs always included one figure with a human face and one with a bestial face. Such tomb guardians with canine or feline bodies, seated on their haunches with straight forelegs, also were produced in the Tang dynasty, when ceramic examples commonly were fired with colorful lead-silicate glazes known as sancai or "three-color" glaze.
Ceramic figure of a horse standing on a thin ceramic base, which a high-arched neck and a vertical head; large saddle with tassels; traces of orange-ochre, pink red and white pigments
The elegant, long-legged horses of Ferghana and Sogdia (ancient Central Asian kingdom in the region of modern Uzbekistan) were essential to the success of the Han armies over northern nomads. It became common for Chinese military officials to adorn their tombs with sculpted figures of both imported horses and their red-haired, bearded Sogdian grooms.
Square applique cloth with two narrative registers separated by two rows of squares, each bisected with solid and factory printed/plaid cloth; top and bottom border in similar checked motif. Red, black and white predominate. Top narrative panel has a stylized leopard and six human figures in festive dress, playing musical instruments. Lower panel shows 4 figures in festive dress, and an ox feeding from a bucket. All images and figures in applique.
Vivid, narrative appliqué cloths for funerary shrines were erected exclusively for members of the men’s ebie-owo initiation society. Shrines were erected six months to a year after a man’s death, and it was not until a shrine was made that his spirit could join the ancestors. These “second funerals” involved much pageantry in honor of the deceased, which is “documented” in the cloths' festive imagery.
pottery model of a standing dog, as part of the grave furnishing in a Han tomb
Chinese ideas of the afterlife required that a tomb be fully equipped with the paraphernalia to keep the departed soul comfortable throughout the coming ages. In earlier centuries live humans and animals were co-buried with kings, but by the Han dynasty, the dead were content with clay models, and almost any family of reasonable means could provide for their ancestors. This congenial creature is one of hundreds excavated from Han period tombs, evidence that the dog was well established as man’s best friend by a thousand years ago.
Earthenware jar with sancai (three-color) glaze in amber, green and cream with blue in a peacock-feather pattern
Sancai, or tri-color wares, were one of the most brilliant innovations of Tang dynasty (618–907) potters. Working with the same clay used to produce white wares, potters added iron and copper oxide colorants to create the typical three-color palette of cream, amber, and olive green. Lead flux made it possible for these colored glazes to fuse to the earthenware body at relatively low kiln temperatures. It also allowed glazes to run, which made them very difficult to control, yet aesthetically appealing.