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Tomb Tile with Phoenix Design

Asian Art

This tile, which was originally placed on the interior wall of a tomb chamber, depicts the "red bird of the south" (Chinese: zhuque), one of the mythical animals of the four directions. The bird's head, tail, and clawed feet extend to a border of honeysuckle vines. Molded polychrome tiles of this type were typical tomb decorations in the south of China from the later Northern Wei dynasty (A.D. 386–535) to the early Tang dynasty (A.D. 618–906).

MEDIUM Molded clay with pigment
  • Place Made: China
  • DATES late 5th-early 6th century
    DYNASTY Northern Wei to Tang Dynasty
    PERIOD Late Northern Wei to Early Tang Dynasty
    DIMENSIONS 7 3/4 x 14 1/2 in. (19.7 x 36.8 cm)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul E. Manheim
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Depicting a standing phoenix bird with feet outstretched and tail raised. A smaller one can be seen to the left. The phoenix faces the left of the tile. Other flying fowl are seen on the right of the phoenix. There is a border of floral design around the entire tile. The major phoenix is painted in red and green and kind of brownish orange body tone. The other birds also have remains of red and green paint as well as a white ground under the paint. Condition: Excellent; incrustations of dirt throughout.
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