Earthenware tile with a monster mask

From the Red Pagoda at Mt. Qingliang, Henan Province, northern China
Tang dynasty, reign of Taizong (AD 627-50)

An architectural tile from a Tang pagoda

Most of the buildings in ancient China were made of wood, and so have perished. Brick pagodas are an exception. Although they do not survive well, a number of crumbling, unadorned pagodas of the Tang dynasty (618-906) and the Song dynasty (960-1279) can still be seen around the Chinese countryside.

One of the best preserved and most interesting is the Red Pagoda at the Xiuding temple near Anyang, in Henan province. It was built in the fifth century and restored in the seventh by the Tang Emperor Taizong (reigned 626-49). The pagoda still has a large amount of earthenware brickwork decorated in relief.

This rectangular tile was fired in reduction. Reduction firing removes oxygen from the atmosphere in the kiln, affecting the colour and hardness of the ceramic. In this case the reduction has given the tile a grey colour. After firing, the tile was coloured in a red pigment, traces of which remain. It came from the topmost row of tiles, just under the eaves of the pagoda.

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More information


S.J. Vainker, Chinese pottery and porcelain, (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)


Height: 43.000 cm
Width: 37.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1983.7-25.1


Brooke Sewell Fund


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