Amphora with Two Dragon-Shape Handles
Tang dynasty (618-907 C.E.)
stoneware with white glaze
15.5 x 8.5 inches diam.
This vessel provides compelling evidence of Mediterranean cultural impact on the Tang people. The handles and overall shape pay homage to Hellenistic amphoras. Yet it is not a simple copy of another culture's wares. The artists of the Tang make it all their own by representing dragons on the handles. Dragons have long been significant and complex symbols in China. Unlike in Western lore, in China the dragon is a benevolent symbol of male fertility and virility as well as safe passage. Since the Han dynasty it has also been a symbol of imperial power and authority.
Art Institute of Chicago, object RX17560.73
Eberhard, p. 83.
Sullivan, p. 145
--K. Johnson Bowles, 2006, Reflecting Centuries of Beauty: The Rowe Collection of Chinese Art