The TT Tsui collection of Chinese ceramics
Head of the Buddha
While Buddhism was not actively supported by the Song, the religion had gained a strong foothold during the Tang Dynasty and Buddhist images continued to be made under local patronage. This large stone head of the Buddha is over life size and would have been part of a monumental seated or standing image.
The large hair curls and gently rounded cranial bump, usnisha, and squared plump face are typical of Chinese Buddhist images. The triangular space on the front of the hair may have contained a precious stone. There are traces of black pigment on the image suggesting it was once painted and gilded.
Lokapala [guardian figure]
The earliest known examples of guardian figures date from around the 5th century, coinciding with an increased acceptance of Buddhism. The Buddhist Guardians of the four cardinal directions, north, south, east and west, mixed easily with the Daoist Heavenly Kings who were also guardians of the four directions.
As Guardians they could call upon the spirits of the next world to help them protect the tomb if necessary. It was usual for pairs of guardian figures to be placed in tombs near its entrance. Two figures were usually in human form while the other pair took the forms of frightening mythical beasts.
This unglazed earthenware figure is covered in a white slip which has then been painted. From the remnants of red and black on the face it is possible to imagine its original ferocious appearance. His breastplate is deliberately designed to look like a gruesome mask. The guardian would have been carrying a spear or similar weapon which has been lost and it is trampling a demon underfoot.
A symbol of crushing evil, this design feature also related to Buddhist imagery where it represents crushing the dwarf of ignorance.