This tile once formed part of a frieze on a Buddhist pagoda known as the Xiudingsi (Temple where contemplation is cultivated). It is one of three different types of tile – two guardians and one monster – that alternate in the uppermost frieze under the eaves. One of the most spectacular features of the figure is the manner in which its stylised chest muscles have been worked into rippling, wave-like forms. Set almost nine metres above the ground, the figures were intended to protect the roof by warding off evil spirits. The tiles on the Xiudingsi temple are a fine example of the eclectic nature of Chinese art under the Tang dynasty, when objects and ideas flowed freely into and out of China along the Silk Road.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label