On View: Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
This large menacing creature with antlers and a protruding tongue is a guardian (zhen mu shou), often found in tombs of the Chu culture in the southern Chinese provinces of Hunan, Henan, and Hubei during the Warring States through Western Han (206 B.C.E.–9 C.E.) periods. They are found placed in the chamber of the tomb, closest to the head of the tomb occupant and facing inward toward the occupant, in order to protect the deceased. Chu culture is renowned for its elaborately carved and painted lacquer objects; designs similar to the ones on this mythical guardian are also found on Chu textiles and inlaid bronzes of the same period.
Wood, horn, lacquer, and polychrome
5th-3rd century B.C.E.
Eastern Zhou Dynasty
Warring States Period
assembled: 41 5/8 x 30 1/2 x 12 3/16 in. (105.7 x 77.5 x 31.0 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Gisele Croes, purchase gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leon Black, Dr. and Mrs. Richard Dickes, Mr. and Mrs. Rohit Desai, and Brooklyn Museum Collection
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Mythical Figure, 5th-3rd century B.C.E. Wood, horn, lacquer, and polychrome, assembled: 41 5/8 x 30 1/2 x 12 3/16 in. (105.7 x 77.5 x 31.0 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Gisele Croes, purchase gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leon Black, Dr. and Mrs. Richard Dickes, Mr. and Mrs. Rohit Desai, and Brooklyn Museum Collection, 1999.20a-d. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1999.20a-d_SL3.jpg)
overall, 1999.20a-d_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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This figure is from the Chu culture, which is renowned for its remarkable lacquers. The Mythical Figure exemplifies the more sculptural emphasis on this tradition. Representing an imaginary animal, the work is also significant in regards to funerary practices of the Chu culture; the antlers, protruding tongue, and composite human-dragon features function to protect the deceased and connect the visible world with the realm of the spirits. In addition, the Chu lacquer tradition reflects enormous cross-influences between media. The ornament in red, brown, and black that decorates the Mythical Figure's surface reiterates the complex patterning of textiles and inlaid bronzes.
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