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A.D. 398 Eastern Jin Tomb Tiles, Rare Calligraphy

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Chinese: Architectural Elements: Pre AD 1000: Item # 608510

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A.D. 398 Eastern Jin Tomb Tiles, Rare Calligraphy

398 A.D. TWO EASTERN JIN DYNASTY TOMB TILES, one dated to the second year (AD 398) of Longan (AD 397-402) of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 317-420). Not until the 1960s under Mao were a number of these tombs “liberated” in the present day cities of Nanjing, Zhenjiang and Danyan—all in Jiangsu Province in southern China where ethnic Han Chinese, fleeing northern nomadic invasions, had settled. These unglazed, molded tiles show the influence of earlier Han Dynasty tombs when pictures were originally carved on stone; however, these tiles with their high relief designs represent a technical advance of the six dynasties period. Intaglio designs were incised on a mold from which bricks were produced with the designs in high relief. Numerous bricks were used to line the coffin chambers of underground tombs. Many of the tiles exhibit a combination of traditional Daoist and Buddhist imagery. Fifty-four different picture tiles representing ten motifs have been excavated from the region. The inscriptions are considered a very important record of the calligraphy of the period. The dated tile offered here depicts the familiar mythological tortoise entwined by a serpent, its neck extended and face turned backwards confronting the fork-tongued serpent face-to-face. (Note: Shen wu is a turtle with a dragon head, believed to be the offspring of a turtle and serpent whose conception is perhaps depicted in this tile.) The margins of this tile contain an inscription which dates this tile precisely to the 2nd year of Longan, Eastern Jin Dynasty. Thirteen of these large tombs from the Jin Dynasty were excavated at Nanjing and Zhenjiang. Kaishu (formal script) and Xingshu (running script) have evolved since the Wei and Jin Dynasties but their traces can be seen clearly in these inscriptions. Tiles with inscriptions offer a rare calligraphy example of these periods from Jiangsu Province. Less familiar is the winged spirit depicted on the second tile being offered here. Somewhat alien-like and more whimsical than demonic, with bulging eyes and a wide grimace and amusing demeanor, long-toed feet pointed in opposite directions, outstretched arms with claw-like hands, wings spread and stomach protruding. Of indeterminate sex but perhaps female. Depicted in high relief. This seems a benign spirit, undoubtedly incorporated into Buddhism and subsequently imported into China. Dimensions/Weight: Each tile is approximately 8-1/4” high x 11-1/4” wide and is 1” thick (21cm x 28.25cm x 2.4cm) and weighs slightly over 6 pounds. Condition: wear and surface abrasions to each; no restorations, no cracks or major losses. The surface of the demonic-creature tile shows some surface scorching. ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS WILL BE EMAILED TO YOU ON REQUEST.

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