Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) China
Watchtower 25-220 Description: Square tower with several layers and upturned eaves in a square moat, decorated with birds and human figures
Place made: China
Materials & Technique: sculptures, earthenware, earthenware; glaze
Dimensions: overall 92.0 h 40.0 diameter cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of Andrew and Hiroko Gwinnett 2002
Accession No: NGA 2002.374.A-C
  • In Imperial China, powerful images from the human and spirit world were created as funerary goods [mingqi]. These often symbolised the political power and wealth of the ruler in whose tomb they were sealed. This is a model of a Han-dynasty watchtower, similar to those which were erected along the Great Wall during the same period in Chinese history. The tiered form of the watchtower continued to be popular in Chinese Buddhist architecture, where the Indian stupa was transformed into the Chinese pagoda. The square structure and multi-layered roofs with upsweeping eaves became signature features of Chinese traditional buildings. The moat is round rather than square, and the proportions are elegant. A Han-dynasty innovation, the green lead glaze has developed a charming silvery iridescence from 2000 years of burial.

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