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Tall Chinese Tang Sancai Glazed Pottery Earth Spirit

Far East, China, Tang Dynasty, ca. 618 to 907 CE. A magnificent guardian figure called a zhenmushou (grave-quelling beast) or earth spirit presenting a characteristic fantastical hybrid, creature-like form comprised of both animal and human elements and retaining rich gold and green sancai glaze on much of the surface. The beast faces forward with a ferocious appearance comprised of its bulging eyes, furrowed brow, and snarling grimace; its head presenting an undulating horn or flame emerging from the top and large pointed ears from either side, as it sits on its hind haunches with wing-like projections rising from the front, hooved legs. Earth spirits like this example were traditionally placed in tombs to ward off evil beings or spirits that threatened to intrude. Size: 6.125" W x 20.75" H (15.6 cm x 52.7 cm)

"Sancai" means "three colors" and is a type of decoration in Chinese pottery using intermingled colors for decoration; it is a signature of the Tang Dynasty. A piece like this would have been made by using white clay and firing it, then applying glaze tinted with copper for green and iron for amber/brownish yellow hues. Three major kilns in northern China were responsible for making these pieces, which were designed to go into the tombs of Tang aristocracy.

. The Tang Dynasty was a thrilling time in Chinese history, when trade flourished along the Silk Routes and unified China was the richest country on earth. Chang'an (now Xi'an) was the Tang capital, and it was one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth, filled with foreigners who had travelled to China to trade; the influence of foreigners and talented native Chinese, combined with the economic prosperity brought on by trade and the new religion from India, Buddhism, created a powerful cultural milieu where poetry and other forms of art flourished.

A Sancai-glazed Earth Spirit sold at Chistie's New York for $6,875 on September 19-20, 2013 - sale 2726, lot 1266. See http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-sancai-glazed-pottery-figure-of-an-earth-5719582-details.aspx

Condition: Upper section reattached to lower section with visible break lines at mid section. Loss to tip of horn/flame. Some surface wear as shown but nice remains of sancai glaze.

Provenance: Haig's of Rochester, Minnesota, USA

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