, Earth spirit guardian figure [pixie] Enlarge 1 /1
Tang dynasty (618-907) China
Earth spirit guardian figure [pixie] 8th century Place made: China
Materials & Technique: sculptures, earthenware, earthenware with three colour [sancai] glaze
Dimensions: 121.9 h x 47.0 w x 33.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1998
Accession No: NGA 98.79.1

Drawn from images of real and mythical animals and birds, this huge protective earth spirit, one of a pair, originally stood guard at the entrance to the tomb of a Chinese ruler. The figure displays an amalgam of ferocious and threatening features. Known as pixie, the figure has the glazed head of a lion, and sprouts curving antlers and a flame-like mane. It appears beside a tianlu man-lion, with cloven hooves, enormous flared ears and a single spiralling horn. The unglazed head of this spirit would probably once have been painted.

Both bearded creatures have unusually fine incising of feathers on their outstretched wings. Coated in the brilliant amber, green and straw sancaiglaze perfected by the Tang potters, the guardian figures crouch expectantly on tall rocky outcrops.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label