Korean roof tile

Korea, 8th century AD

The concept of using tiles decorated with monster masks to ward off evil spirits originated from China.

The tiles were placed in each of the four cardinal directions (north, east, south and west) on top of the roof of a building. They were used in royal buildings, those of the aristocracy, and also on Buddhist temples.

Some tiles were produced in the shape of a lion, a Buddhist guardian symbol. Buddhism had become the prevalent religion by the seventh century in Korea. Some scholars think that these tiles portray dragons, not monster masks.

Though this example is not glazed, some of these tiles were glazed with a green lead glaze.



Korea's location between China, Russia and Japan has played a crucial role not only in establishing Korea’s diverse cultural heritage, but also in the development of East Asian culture and art.

Korea world culture

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Object details

Unified Silla dynasty

Height: 28 cm
Width: 22.5 cm
Depth: 6 cm


Asia OA 1992.6-15.24

Room 67: Korea


    Gift of Dr. A.G. Poulsen-Hansen


    J. Portal, Korea - art and archaeology (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    S. Bush, ‘Thunder Monsters, Auspicious Animals, and Floral Ornament in Early Sixth-Century China’, Ars Orientalis, 10 (1975), 19–33

    M. Harrell, ‘Sokkuram Buddhist Monument and Political Statement in Korea’, World Archaeology, 27 (1995), 316–335

    R.D. McBride, Domesticating the Dharma: Buddhist Cults and the Hwaom Synthesis in Silla Korea (Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 2008)

    S.M. Nelson, The Archaeology of Korea (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993)