Tomb figurines of earth spirits
composite beasts have been called by a variety of terms
in English and Chinese, including chimera, guaishou (strange
animal), or tianlu (heavenly deer). Currently, the
correct Chinese term for such beasts is zhenmushou,
literally "tomb guardian creature". During the
Six Dynasties period, ceramic mingqi versions of this
composite beast begin to appear inside the tomb, often
in pairs with one having a human face and the other
having an animal face, usually that of a lion.
instances they have cloven hooves, like those of a deer,
rather than lion's paws. Although pointed horns on their
heads and spiky flanges along their backs indicate their
supernatural power, these creatures are often endowed
with benevolent, even smiling faces. However, during the
Sui and Tang periods, zhenmushou become increasingly
dramatic and fearsome.
Multiple horns, fangs, tentacles
and wings along with clenched fists and grimacing facial
expressions heighten their poer to ward off evil spirtis.
Rendered in large scale and embellished with vivid
colors, these figures effectively convey their
supernatural power to conquer evil. Here, the artists'
creativity has conjured up images that certainly did not
exist in the everyday world.