You are here > Home > Quick Navigation > Sculpture & Carving >

Eagle Tripod and Dog Pitcher

Ancient Chinese people living along the Yellow and Yangtze rivers began to make pottery and clay figures towards the end of the Primitive Society about 6000 to 4000 years ago.

In 1975 a beautifully shaped pottery eagle tripod (Fig.3-1) was unearthed in a tomb of the Yangshao culture in Shaanxi Province. The eagle tripod is onlya6 cm high but has a heroic image. The chest of the bird forms the belly of the tripod while its back forms the utensil's opening. The eagle's eyes are wide open, and its body is smooth and clean with no striations. The beak of the eagle is shaped like a hook of great strength. The entire form is simple and reveals a strong sense of volume. The feet and tail Support the tripod, and the bird's wings stretch backward as if it is pouncing on something. The big eyes, sharp beak and the attitude of the eagle make it appear awe-inspiring, wild and intractable. It is amazing that such a small piece of pottery can convey so much vigor and boldness.

The Chinese ancestors living in the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River left numerous excellent pottery sculptures, such as the Owl Kettle, which had a totemic meaning. The lid or mouth of some of these utensils assumes the shape of human, animal or bird heads with a naive and attractive appearance.

The most representative of the pottery sculptures in the lower reaches of the Yellow River are pottery guis, A gui is an ancient Chinese pitcher with three legs. The guis were made in the shape of animals, such as pigs and dogs, and were used as domestic utensils. Most of the animal guis have raised heads but different expressions. Some dog guis are opening their mouths and raising their tails as if they have found some tasty morsel of food. Others stretch Out their necks, raising their heads and closing their eyes; their curved tails act as the handles of the utensil.(Fig.3-2) The pig guis are round in shape as if the animals are lowering their heads and looking for food. Their pleasing expressions vividly capture the habits of real pigs.

The pottery figures of the Yellow River region were used as utensils of both decorative and practical value. In the Yangtze River regions, the pottery animal sculptures were very small and made purely for amusement. Some small hand-moulded pottery animal figures of the Qujialing culture in Hubei Province and the Hemudu culture in Zhejiang Province have been unearthed. They come in the shape of birds, pigs, fish and other creatures. It seems they were made with earth left over from the manufacture of big pottery products. They might have been used as toys for children or for other purposes, but it is likely they were mainly produced for enjoyment. Similar small animal pottery sculptures have also been found among relics along the Yellow River.

The animals depicted in these sculptures are mostly domesticated livestock, Such as pigs, sheep, dogs and chickens, used by people in the Neolithic Age. The makers of the sculptures created them Out of interest after careful observation of life. The sculptures' meaning remains obscure, which adds to their mystery. The look of these pottery sculptures is in formal, simple, exaggerated and compact; they are unpolished, which reinforces the beauty of a free and innocent style. They laid a solid foundation for later more refined and larger sculptural creations.

Quick Navigation

New Article