Large Sancai-Glazed Earth Spirits, Zhenmoushou, China, Tang Dynasty (618 - 907)

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Large Sancai-Glazed Earth Spirits, Zhenmoushou, China, Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). Height: 132 & 126 cm. TL-tested by Oxford Authentication Ltd. Vanderven Oriental Art at Brafa Art Fair, Brussels, 21-29 january 2017.

A pair of Sancai glazed Terracotta earth spirits or Zhenmushou. These fierce looking beasts, were found in pairs guarding the entrance of Tang Dynasty tombs in China. Their function was to prevent the spirit of the tomb’s occupant from escaping, as well as to ward off evil spirits from entering. Most known examples date from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Zhenmushou are mythical hybrid creatures, that have bodies which are a combination of dogs, lions, boars and other fierce animals. One has the face of a human, the other that of a beast. 

The Tang dynasty is one of the most prosperous and important dynasties in the history of China. Trade flourished, especially over the silk road, and there was economic stability. During this period there is much innovation, due to the exchange of ideas with foreign lands, increased wealth and generous patronage of the arts. There was also great advancement in the techniques used in the production of pottery. There were novel shapes, as well as new firing and glazing procedures. One such techniques introduced in this period is known as Sancai (tri-coloured) glazing; the three glaze-colours used were ochre or brown, green and clear. These were applied roughly, the colours often running freely over each other. Glazed wares where much more costly to produce than un glazed wares, and were therefore only intended for the wealthiest patrons.

Provenance: Private Asian Collection

Vanderven Oriental Art. Chinese early ceramics from the Han & Tang Periods, Ming & Qing porcelains & works of art including Jades, Bronzes, hardstones and wood. Japanese porcelains, 20th century lacquer & bronzes. Nachtegaalslaantje 1, 5211 LE s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.