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Art & Antiques - Bachmann Eckenstein

White Marble Lion
China, Tang Dynasty (AD 618 - 906)
White carved marble
Ht: 23 cm (9 inch)

Gelukpa Lama

A small marble sculpture of a lion. The animal sits on a square plinth with its front paws forward, straight head and its tail underneath its body. Its mouth is slightly open and has a snarling expression. The elaborate mane covers the top half of its body. The details of the mane and the musculature are minutely defined. This very fine piece, despite its unusually diminutive size, retains all the sculptural qualities and proportions one would expect from a large-size sculpture. The stone is of a creamy-white tone.

The lion is called SIH - TZU, was named from the Sanskrit SIMBA - lion, in ancient China.

In the arts of the Tang dynasty the lion is a popular subject, and was frequently portrayed in a variety of media such as ceramic, bronze or stone. The animal, which was not indigenous to China, first came to the attention of Chinese artists when it was introduced from India. In The Golden Peaches of Samarkand the author, Edward H. Schafer, mentions that it is recorded that a lion was sent from Samarkand as a tribute gift to the Chinese Emperor T'ai Tsung in 635 AD, and that a poet was ordered to compose a rhapsody in its honour. It is also recorded that the Tocharians sent lions to the Tang court on three occasions, once in the seventh and twice in the eighth century.

all text & images © Art & Antiques - Bachmann Eckenstein

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