Tomb Guardian in Sancai Glaze
Developed from the low-fired lead glazes of the Han dynasty, sancai, or three-colour, wares were a new type of ceramics that appeared during the Tang dynasty and were intended for use as burial objects. Two or more metal oxides, such as copper, iron and cobalt, were used as colorants in a lead glaze fired at a low temperature of 800°C, a process that produced different tones of yellow, green, blue, brown, purple and black. The beauty of these glazes lay in their high fluidity, which allowed them to flow down and into each other to create striking gradations of tone and pattern.
The wide range of sancai wares, which have predominantly been found in areas around Xi'an and Luoyang, capital cities during the Tang period, includes utensils, animals, figurines and even architectural models, all of which reflect the customs and beliefs of the Tang nobility.
One such practice that was common among Tang nobles was to protect their tombs with tomb guardians. These fearsome looking creations were usually placed near the entrance or at the four corners of the tomb chamber, from where they could drive away evil spirits. Crouching on an openwork pedestal, this tomb guardian presents a ferocious picture with its impressive horns, staring eyes and full beard, the sharp fangs emerging from its large mouth, the pair of wings stretching out from its shoulders, and its long, hoofed forelegs. The figure is richly covered with yellow, green and creamy white glazes that intermingle on the body.