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Tomb guard

Tomb guard

Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 534)
Terra cotta
H : 39.5 cm W : 22.5 cm
M.C. 7600

During the Eastern Han Era (25 – 220), among the statuettes placed in tombs, a warrior, with a raised arm holding a lance made from a perishable material, participates in an exorcism ritual in order to protect the residence of the sensitive soul (po) from evil influences. During the Western Jin Era (265 – 316), his face wore a terrifying expression, perhaps due to a mask worn during the ceremony.

This protective figure, associated with a monstrous animal, horned on the back, gradually took on a growing importance. Tomb guards (zhenmuyong) are split into military officials and civil officials. Two fantastic creatures, “beasts guarding the tomb” (zhenmushou) also accompany them. Under the Northern Qi (550 – 577), a group of six statuettes comprising two soldiers, two civil officials and two fantastic animal tomb guards, considered earth spirits, were placed at tomb entrances. Starting from the Sui Era (581 – 618), four officials were identified with the four guards of the continents (Sanskrit lokapāla) in Buddhism, considered the four guards of directions (fangxiang) or four divine guards (tianwang).

The Cernuschi Museum’s statuette presents an exception to the pieces produced during the 3rd and 4th centuries. The near-cartoonish stylisation of exorcists during the Jin Era gives way to a more natural face, which beams a benevolent smile. The sleeves show through the armour. The wide coat tails, which protect the pants, constitute the lower part of the clothing.

Auteur de la notice : Gilles Béguin
Collection : The Three Kingdoms and Six Dynasties period
Mode d'acquisition : Donation of the Cernuschi Museum Society of Friends, 1930.
  • Gardien de tombe

Gardien de tombe
© Musée Cernuschi