The Bodhisattva Collection

An Exceptional Northern Qi Tomb Guardian, 550-577 AD

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Chinese: Pottery: Pre AD 1000: Item # 938722
The Bodhisattva Collection
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From our Early Chinese Collection, an exceptional Northern Qi Dynasty Tomb Guardian (550 - 577 AD), boldly modeled in full military armor with chest and back plates, fringed mail tunics over knee guards, and battle helmet with leather side flaps. His left hand rests upon a leonine shield, the right hand would have clenched a wooden spear which has decomposed long ago. This imposing figure reflects the strong facial features typical of other known Northern Qi statuary, such as the ominous bulging eyes, high cheekbones, and thick lips set in a forbidding expression. The body has good pigment retention showing ample traces of cold painted (unfired) orange, red, white, and black coloration.

This figure is quite remarkable for several reasons. First, unlike the long Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) from which the majority of Chinese tomb figures on the market tend to date, the Northern Qi was a comparatively short dynasty, only 27 years. Thus, figures from this period are much less common. Second, this guardian sports what is called a "cord and plaque style armor," which differs from the standard "plain plaque armor" of most Northern Qi Dynasty guardians. While this may be esoteric to some, it is actually an important distinction for ancient armor and weaponry historians.

For a picture of a nearly identical Northern Qi tomb guardian from the famed Solomon Collection, we have attached a photo of figure # 20 published in, "From Court to Caravan: Chinese Tomb Sculptures from the Collection of Anthony Solomon.” This is a rare and special piece for the serious collector.

Size and Condition: A sizeable piece at 19 ¾” high. Superb condition without any restoration, repairs, or retouching of the pigment whatsoever. There is a slight ½” inch firing crack on the base, but this is original to the piece and not considered damage.