An image of Lion scratching his ear

Unknown Artist

Lion scratching his ear

Not on display
Further information

Small hollow moulded figures of animals are a common feature of Tang funerary art. Some were animals native to China, some were imaginary, fantastic creatures, and others such as the lion were animals introduced to China.

The coiled feline, with a paw scratching an ear, is one of the most common motifs in the sculpture and decorative arts of the eighth century. Comparative pieces in ceramic, jade, and stone are known.

China first became acquainted with the lion in the Han period through its contact with the West. In the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern world the lion, because it was the largest predator and most powerful and dangerous of all creatures, had become a universal symbol of power, often royal power. The Chinese adopted the lion and its symbolism into the 'mingqi' repertoire, and it even appears as large scale stone guardians of the spirit path to some tombs. The lion was also adopted by Buddhism, figuring as the defender of law and the protector of ancient buildings from whence developed the tradition of placing a pair of lions at the entrance of buildings.

Jackie Menzies, 'Early Chinese Art', AGNSW, 1983. cat. no. XXXIV

Place of origin
China: Tang dynasty 618–907
earthenware, green glaze
5.8 x 9.7 x 5.5 cm; 7.6 x 10.0 x 5.8 cm object with stand
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of Mr Sydney Cooper 1962
Accession number