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Green-glazed Pottery Figurines of the Twelve Astrological Emblems: Dog

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Period: Tang dynasty (618–907)
Dimensions: Height: 25 cm

This pottery figurine has a man’s body and the head of a dog. His large ears droop down, and his round eyes are wide open. The dog’s canine-teeth are visible and add to the lifelike effect of the piece. He wears a long robe with narrow sleeves, and he holds his hands before his chest in a polite gesture. His rotund belly is encircled with a belt, and he wears high boots on his feet.

The images of the twelve astrological emblems created during the Sui (581–618) and Tang (618–907) dynasties can essentially be divided into three categories. The first category shows those with human bodies and the heads of one of the twelve animals wearing official garb and either rest their hands at their sides or hold an official tablet before their chests. The second category is in the form of a standing or sitting human figure wearing an official cap and a long, wide-sleeved robe and holding one of the twelve astrological emblems. The third category is in the form of one of the animals itself. The twelve astrological emblems served to guard tombs, and the regulations of the Tang dynasty stipulated that first to ninth ranked officials were permitted to be buried with these protective symbols. The rat (zi, shu) was placed to the north, and the other animals would be placed in proper order following a clockwise direction.

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