Unknown artist, Chinese
Chimera, late 5th or early 6th century
55 x 46 x 40 cm (21 5/8 x 18 1/8 x 15 3/4 inches)
Museum Works of Art Fund 43.592
This imaginary creature, intended as a tomb guardian, is associated with ancient Chinese funerary practice and popular Confucian beliefs about worshipping at and maintaining the graves of one’s ancestors. A fantastic composite having wings, small horns, a beard, clawed feet, and feathery protrusions, the chimera was believed to ward off evil. This sculpture rested on top of a tall pillar placed along the ‘spirit road’ leading to the tomb of a member of one of the ruling families residing at Nanjing. Many of these sculptures lined the way, some on the ground and some on columns.