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Tomb beast guard

Tomb beast guard

Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 534)
Terra cotta
H : 29 cm L : 19.6 cm D : 11.8 cm
M.C. 9941

During the Eastern Han Era (25 – 220), among the statuettes placed in tombs, a warrior, with a raised arm holding a lance made from a perishable material, participates in an exorcism ritual in order to protect the residence of the sensitive soul (po) from evil influences. During the Western Jin Era (265 – 316), his face wore a terrifying expression, perhaps due to a mask worn during the ceremony.

This protective figure, associated with a monstrous animal, horned on the back, gradually took on a growing importance. There are two tomb guards (zhenmuyong) as well as two fantastic creatures, “beasts guarding the tomb” (zhenmushou) accompanying them.

This is an example of a common type of zhenmushou. It has the body of a dog and a human head. It has kept its three horns, common among more ancient fantastic creatures. Its relatively large size and the remains of the polychromy that distinguished its face make it particularly impressive. Specialists usually place pieces crafted in this manner in the second half of the 5th century.

Starting in the 6th century, two zhenmushou, one with a human head, the other with an animal head, protected the entrance to funerary chambers. They continued to be used through the end of the Tang Dynasty.

Auteur de la notice : Gilles Béguin
Collection : The Three Kingdoms and Six Dynasties period
Mode d'acquisition : Donation of Josette and Théo Schulmann, 1997.
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© Musée Cernuschi