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HUGE Medieval Buddhist Sintered Clay Bodhisattva Tile Temple Shrine Plaque AD999 $349.99


For Customers outside of USA

Genuine Intricate, Beautiful Ancient Chinese Buddhist Shrine Decorative Clay Tile Depicting Eight Hindu-Style Bodhisattvas. Possibly an 18th or 19th Century Revival Imitative.

CLASSIFICATION: Ancient Chinese Buddhist Clay Shrine Tile.

ATTRIBUTION: In the Style of Ancient China, Liao Dynasty (907-1125 A.D.).

SIZE/MEASUREMENTS:

Length: 243 millimeters (9 3/4 inches).

Width: 188 millimeters (7 1/2 inches).

Thickness: 25 millimeters (1 inch).

Weight: 3 pounds, 6 ounces (about 1˝ kilograms).

CONDITION: Exceptional. Integrity entirely intact. No significant chips or cracks. Minor surface crazing. Professionally conserved. Can be sealed upon request.

DETAIL: This is a very beautiful, intricately detailed gray clay tile from the Liao Dynasty of ancient China. These clay tiles were used to decorate the inside walls of Buddhist shrines. The depiction is somewhat reminiscent of a Hindu depiction. Of course Buddhism came to China from Hindu India, and there exist of course many parallels between the Chinese and Indian variants of Buddhism. The depiction is of eight bodhisattvas of various sizes. There is a little surface crazing and a few minute chips; but no cracks or major chips. It is constructed of very strong sintered clay produced using a very special technique often employed to produce strengthened steel.

Although it is probable that this specimen is much older, it is also possible that this piece might be a revivalist imitative produced for the European market of the 18th or 19th century. It is widely known that Chinese porcelain and other ceramic artwork was quite popular in Victorian Europe. Carrying Chinese porcelain from China to Europe was an industry for the seafaring mariners of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Entire fleets of sailing ships plied the trade, especially the Dutch and English. However in addition to porcelain, ancient Chinese ceramics were also extremely popular in Victorian Europe, where Chinese ceramic artwork was highly appreciated and in great demand.

Although the style of this specimen is very convincing and suggests it might indeed be of Liao Dynasty origin, a large portion of the antique/ancient Chinese ceramics in Europe date to the 18th or 19th century, so it is quite possible that this is an imitative revival piece. Judging by the style it is likely considerably older, but only a $1,000 thermoluminescence test would establish this conclusively (and even then the reliability and accuracy of such testing is still debated). So we’ll simply err on the side of being conservative and suggest that you consider it a revival piece, and if it is indeed older, so much the better. However whether an antique several centuries old, or an antiquity a few centuries older, this is a valuable and collectible piece of art.

This is a gorgeous, intricate artifact of ancient Chinese Buddhism. It is a very solid piece, well constructed, and in a great state of preservation. It would make a unique gift for yourself or a friend. The origin of such tiles can be traced back to clay roof tiles which were originally used in China over 10,000 years ago. Eventually they evolved into highly ornate decorative pieces of art. Over 2,000 years ago highly decorated pottery tiles were also produced for medicinal use. It is believed that hot tiles were used for massage or hot pressing. But the lavish decorations also suggest that they might have played a role in assisting ritual incantation, perhaps in ridding the patient of disease.

HISTORY: Sintered clay is produced using a technique known as “hydrogen reduction” Commonly thought to be a process developed for European steelmaking in the industrial revolution, the same technique was used for ceramics in China dating to the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) and earlier. The production of brick and roof tile has been significant in China for two millennia. To achieve sintering, the kiln is charged with extra fuel, then closed at the firebox and flue openings, and water is introduced from a pool on the roof without subsequent introduction of air. The water dissociates, as has been described for water gas firing or water smoking in steel production. The results of this firing produce bricks that are distinctive not only for their color but for their microstructure, which indicates that further sintering has occurred, strengthening the bricks.

BUDDHISM IN CHINA: According to historical accounts, Buddhism was first introduced to China about 65 A.D. when two Indian monks were by Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty to establish a monastery in China. In the beginning Buddhism did not have much influence in China due to the prevailing traditional Chinese philosophy of Confucius. With the downfall of the Han Dynasty in 220 A.D. and the troubled chaotic period that followed, Confucianism was overshadowed by the rival philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism. Northern China was ruled by non-Chinese rulers who encouraged Buddhism. Southern China was ruled by Chinese rulers who were dissatisfied with traditional Confucian beliefs and began to take an interest in Buddhist thought. In the next two centuries Buddhism was rapidly accepted by the common people as well as government official and rulers.

During the Tang Dynasty Buddhism reached its high point in China, becoming a sect distinct from Indian Buddhism, and a permanent part of Chinese traditional culture However the tax-exempt monasteries became so powerful that they represented a threat to the declining Tang Dynasty. The result was persecution of Buddhism, and shortly before the 10th century collapse of the Tang Dynasty, monasteries were dismantled and the monks and nuns were obliged to return to worldly life. Buddhism in China never entirely recovered from this blow. During the succeeding Song Dynasty intellectuals sought answers to all philosophical and political questions in the Confucian Classics. This renewed interest in the Confucian ideals and society of ancient times coincided with the decline of Buddhism, which the Chinese regarded as foreign and offering few practical guidelines for the solution of political and other mundane problems. However during the Ming Dynasty a strong Buddhist movement once again developed.

ANCIENT CHINA: Remains of Homo erectus, found near Beijing, have been dated back 460,000 years. Recent archaeological studies in the Yangtse River area have provided evidence of ancient cultures (and rice cultivation) flourishing more than 11,500 years ago, contrary to the conventional belief that the Yellow River area was the cradle of the Chinese civilization. The Neolithic period flourished with a multiplicity of cultures in different regions dating back to around 5000 B.C. There is strong evidence of two so-called pottery cultures, the Yang-shao culture (3950-1700 B.C.) and the Lung-shan culture (2000-1850 B.C). Written records go back more than 3,500 years, and the written history is (as is the case with Ancient Egypt) divided into dynasties, families of kings or emperors. The voluminous records kept by the ancient Chinese provide us with knowledge into their strong sense of their real and mythological origins – as well as of their neighbors.

By about 2500 B.C. the Chinese knew how to cultivate and weave silk and were trading the luxurious fabric with other nations by about 1000 B.C. The production and value of silk tell much about the advanced state of early Chinese civilization. Cultivation of silkworms required mulberry tree orchards, temperature controls and periodic feedings around the clock. More than 2,000 silkworms were required to produce one pound of silk. The Chinese also mastered spinning, dyeing and weaving silk threads into fabric. Bodies were buried with food containers and other possessions, presumably to assist the smooth passage of the dead to the next world. The relative success of ancient China can be attributed to the superiority of their ideographic written language, their technology, and their political institutions; the refinement of their artistic and intellectual creativity; and the sheer weight of their numbers.

A recurrent historical theme has been the unceasing struggle of the sedentary Chinese against the threats posed by non-Chinese peoples on the margins of their territory in the north, northeast, and northwest. China saw itself surrounded on all sides by so-called barbarian peoples whose cultures were demonstrably inferior by Chinese standards. This China-centered ("sinocentric") view of the world was still undisturbed in the nineteenth century, at the time of the first serious confrontation with the West. Of course the ancient Chinese showed a remarkable ability to absorb the people of surrounding areas into their own civilization. The process of assimilation continued over the centuries through conquest and colonization until what is now known as China Proper was brought under unified rule.

SUNG/LIAO DYNASTIES: The collapse of the Tang Dynasty in 907 A.D. formed the backdrop for the rise the Sung (Song) and Liao Dynasties. During the fifty years following the collapse China fragmented into ten different kingdoms, constantly in conflict with one another, and a rapid succession of five dynasties formed and then collapsed. The Five Dynasties period ended in 960 A.D. when a military leader seized the throne and proclaimed the establishment of the Sung (Song) Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) and reunified most of China. However the Mongols who were responsible for the demise of the preceding Tang Dynasty formed their own kingdom in North China known as the Liao Dynasty (907-1125 A.D.). For the only time in China, the contemporaneous monarchs of both the Liao and Song Dynasties recognized one another as possessing “the mandate of heaven” to rule China as the “son of heaven” – a situation similar to that of Ancient Egypt whereby one Dynasty ruled Upper Egypt, the other Lower Egypt, both Pharaohs recognizing one another’s divine right to rule.

Notwithstanding the shorter-lived Northern Liao Dynasty, the Song Dynasty proved to be the longer lived, and controlled most of China. The founders of the Song Dynasty built an effective centralized bureaucracy staffed with civilian scholar-officials. Notable for the development of cities not only as administrative entities, but also as centers of trade, industry, and maritime commerce, the Sung Dynasty gave rise to a new group of wealthy commoners, the mercantile class. Printing and education spread, private trade grew, and a market economy began to link the coastal provinces and the interior. Landholding and government employment were no longer the only means of gaining wealth and prestige. Unfortunately fearing a repeat of the anarchy created in the Tang Dynasty by petty military rulers in the frontier areas, the Sung Monarchs severely limited the power and authority of provincial military commanders. They were subordinate to centrally appointed civilian officials who had replaced the regional military governors of the Tang. Though this gave greater power and control to the emperor and his palace bureaucracy, it also led a chronic problem with military weakness. Weakness which proved to be fatal to the Sung Dynasty as they confronted the Mongols under the leadership of Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan.

HISTORY OF EARTHENWARE IN ANCIENT CHINA: The first Chinese ceramics archaeologists have found date back more than 10,000 years. These were earthenware, which means they were made from clay and fired at the kind of low temperatures reached by a wood fire or simple oven. In China, most ceramics made before the Tang dynasty (600 A.D.) are earthenware. They may be glazed or unglazed, and are occasionally painted, often brightly colored. Stoneware ceramics are harder and less porous than earthenware and are fired at hotter temperatures—between 2100°F and 2400°F. At these high temperatures, the surface of the clay melts and becomes glassy. Although stoneware is usually waterproof, most stoneware ceramics are glazed for decoration. The glazes often contain ash, which allows the glaze to harden at stoneware temperatures.

During the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 B.C.) bronze metallurgy superceded ceramics as the favored art form of the ruling class. However both the ceramic and the bronze industries evolved into complex systems of production that were supported by the aristocracy. Decorative designs rich in symbolism were created first in bronze were then imitated in clay. Chinese burial customs included the tradition of placing clay replicas of material possessions, animals and people in the tomb to accompany the deceased and serve them in the next life. Although archaeological finds have revealed that glazed pottery was produced as early as 1100 B.C. during the Zhou dynasty, the production of glazed wares was not common until about 200 B.C. during the Han Dynasty. However from about 1000 B.C. onwards during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, primitive porcelain wares emerged. Real porcelain wares appeared in the Han dynasty around 200 A.D. In the process of porcelain development, different styles in different periods blossomed.

The production of porcelain became widespread by about 500 A.D. Using a special clay with ground rock containing feldspar, a glassy mineral, the material was fired at very high temperatures above 2400°F. The surface of the clay melts at such high temperatures and becomes smooth as glass. Early porcelains were undecorated and were used by the Imperial court and exported as far as the Middle East. For instance during the Han Dynasty principally celadon (green) and black porcelain were mainly produced. The famous blue and white porcelain was created with blue paint made from cobalt and then covered with a clear glaze, which can withstand the high temperatures of the kiln. The technical and creative innovations of Chinese potters are unique accomplishments in the cultural heritage of the world. Today, archaeological excavation and research in China are revealing new sites and new examples of the genius of the Chinese potter.

HISTORY OF CHINESE CIVILIZATION: Remains of Homo erectus, found near Beijing, have been dated back 460,000 years. Recent archaeological studies in the Yangtse River area have provided evidence of ancient cultures (and rice cultivation) flourishing more than 11,500 years ago, contrary to the conventional belief that the Yellow River area was the cradle of the Chinese civilization. The Neolithic period flourished with a multiplicity of cultures in different regions dating back to around 5000 B.C. There is strong evidence of two so-called pottery cultures, the Yang-shao culture (3950-1700 B.C.) and the Lung-shan culture (2000-1850 B.C). Written records go back more than 3,500 years, and the written history is (as is the case with Ancient Egypt) divided into dynasties, families of kings or emperors. The voluminous records kept by the ancient Chinese provide us with knowledge into their strong sense of their real and mythological origins – as well as of their neighbors.

By about 2500 B.C. the Chinese knew how to cultivate and weave silk and were trading the luxurious fabric with other nations by about 1000 B.C. The production and value of silk tell much about the advanced state of early Chinese civilization. Cultivation of silkworms required mulberry tree orchards, temperature controls and periodic feedings around the clock. More than 2,000 silkworms were required to produce one pound of silk. The Chinese also mastered spinning, dyeing and weaving silk threads into fabric. Bodies were buried with food containers and other possessions, presumably to assist the smooth passage of the dead to the next world. The relative success of ancient China can be attributed to the superiority of their ideographic written language, their technology, and their political institutions; the refinement of their artistic and intellectual creativity; and the sheer weight of their numbers.

A recurrent historical theme has been the unceasing struggle of the sedentary Chinese against the threats posed by non-Chinese peoples on the margins of their territory in the north, northeast, and northwest. China saw itself surrounded on all sides by so-called barbarian peoples whose cultures were demonstrably inferior by Chinese standards. This China-centered ("sinocentric") view of the world was still undisturbed in the nineteenth century, at the time of the first serious confrontation with the West. Of course the ancient Chinese showed a remarkable ability to absorb the people of surrounding areas into their own civilization. The process of assimilation continued over the centuries through conquest and colonization until what is now known as China Proper was brought under unified rule.

SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.

Our order fulfillment center near Seattle, Washington will ship your purchase within one business day of receipt of your personal check or money order. If you wish to pay electronically, we accept both PayPal and BidPay. However we ask that you PLEASE WAIT before remitting until we have mutually agreed upon method of shipment and shipping charges and you understand our PayPal limitations and policies (stated here). We will ship within one business day of our receipt of your electronic remittance.

A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. We prefer your personal check or money order over any other form of payment - and we will ship immediately upon receipt of your check (no "holds"). Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."