Pair of huge dragons, roof tile ends

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Qianlong Period, 1736 - 1795
Sancai glazed pottery
139 cm

E. Fuchs, Dachreiter und Verwandte Chinesische Keramik des XV. Bis XVIII Jahrhunderts, Munchen (1924), pp. 24-, tafel 3.
J. Rawson, Chinese Ornament: The Lotus and the Dragon, London 1984, pp. 93-99.

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A pair of sancai glazed roof tile ends consisting of three dragons each, with loose tails, claws and horns. The dragons are beautifully colored in green, brown and ochre, and are curling up and down between white swirling clouds. The large dragons, that form the biggest part of the roof tile ends, have far opened jaws, with fangs and a curling tongue, and two curved horns. Their claws are stretched upwards and they have scaly, circling tails. In the middle of the big dragon is another dragon, reaching up, with a scaly body, horns and an open mouth. At the sides of the roof tiles are two smaller dragonheads looking up with stretched necks. The three dragons are depicted against a green background.

In Chinese folk religion the roof ornament is believed to guard the house or temple. One of the most commonly used shapes for these roof ornaments is undoubtedly the dragon. The dragon was seen as the symbol of power and strength, and therefore it was the appropriate animal to guard the temple, palace or house. Colorfully decorated architectural tiles became popular from the Ming Dynasty on, with Beijing being the center of the production. The glazed tiles, representing dragons, warriors and other important Chinese sculptures,  were both decorative and religious. They were placed on the ridges of important buildings and gateways, guarding the temple or palace against evil people and spirits. 

This type of ceramics is named Sancai, literally ‘three colours’. A white body with the characteristic green, amber and white lead-glaze is fired in kilns up to 900℃. The lead-oxide in the glaze, and added copper and iron, influenced the striking colours.


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