An image of A pair of tomb guardian figures

Unknown Artist

A pair of tomb guardian figures

Lower Asian gallery
Further information

Benign but fearsome, this pair of unusually large and meticulously detailed figures exemplifies ceramic technique in Tang China. The facial features and elaborate costumes of these tomb guardians are realised with a convincing naturalism combined with iconographic stylisation. Their dynamic and dramatic poses are characteristic of figures that were placed in the four corners of the tomb to ward off evil spirits. Guardian figures such as these, termed 'lokapalas' or guardian kings, became assimilated into the popular concept of the Four Heavenly Kings of Buddhism, or 'tian wang'. The demonic appearance of this pair is heightened by their flamboyant armour with its flaring epaulettes and prominent breastplates. Also typical is their heroic pose: by standing on or trampling a demon or animal the guardians demonstrate their power over natural elements and evil forces.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 250.

Place of origin
China: Tang dynasty 618–907
late 6th century-early 7th century
earthenware with traces of red and orange pigment over white slip
a - guardian - left hand raised; 93 x 39 x 23 cm
b - guardian - right hand raised; 92 x 39 x 23 cm
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Purchase 1990
Accession number