A MASSIVE SANCAI-GLAZED ROOF TILE
A MASSIVE SANCAI-GLAZED ROOF TILE

MING DYNASTY

Details
A MASSIVE SANCAI-GLAZED ROOF TILE
Ming Dynasty
Modeled in four separate sections to form a descending open-mouthed, large-eyed dragon, one side molded with a phoenix amidst cloud scrolls below a sun symbol, the other with an immortal and a demon surrounded by a smaller writhing, four-clawed dragon amidst cloud scrolls below a conch shell and flames
68in. (170.9cm.) high

Lot Essay

Dragon-form roof ornaments of this type, known as chiwen (owl's lips), were placed either side of a roof ridge so that their open jaws appear to be biting the end of the ridge. According to legend, the abode of these half-fish, half-dragon-like monsters was the Eastern Sea. As rain was supposed to occur when water spouted from their jaws, they were used as a charm against fire.

For an illustration of similar amber-glazed chiwen in situ, see W. Weng, The Palace Museum: Peking, Treasures of the Forbidden City, New York, 1982, pp. 78-79 and Yu Zhuoyun, Palaces of the Forbidden City, Hong Kong, 1982, p. 234, no. 302.

See, also, another chiwen of this form with different tail, and glazed in a palette of purplish-blue, turquoise and yellow, illustrated by R.-Y. Lefebvre d'Argenc, ed., Chinese, Korean and Japanese Sculpture in the Avery Brundage Collection, Japan, 1974, no. 172.
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