MING DYNASTY c.1500 – 1640 Ming Tile-works Pottery

An Inscribed Ming Lead-Glazed Pottery Roof-Tile in the Form of a Demon, Probably Shanxi Province, Late Ming c.1500-1640. Shown on as an Ugly Muscular Semi-Human Figure Squatting on Top of a Convex Ridge-Tile, his Trousers are Rolled up and Tied with a Sash, his Fat Belly Protruding Over the Top . His Mad Demonic Face has a Fixed Stair and His Green Tongue is Poking Out. His Ears are Pierced and Would Probably have had Metal Earrings, the Hand he has Clasped to His Chest is Also Pirced and Would Probably Held a Metal Weapon. The Ridge Tile is Inscribed Beneath the Glaze with a Large Single Character.


In quite good condition, the flame like points of his hair are all chipped, there is a very shallow chip to the top of his rolled up trousers 17 x 5 mm. Small areas of glaze loss on his knees over painted. The green glaze of the ridge tile partly degraded to a golden orange due to exposure to the elements.
Height ; 38.4 cm (15 1/4 inches).
Stock number
For related Ming roof-tiles see : Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum.(Jessica Harrison-Hall.The British Museum Press, 2001. ISBN 0-7141-1488-X.) page 533, item 18:28 and page 534, item 18:29. Jessica mentions that there are roof-tiles of these semi-human demons on the upper levels of the Feihong (Flying Rainbow) pagoda built in 1515.



Ming Pottery Roof Tiles / Liuli Wa :
According to traditional Chinese belief, roofs are platforms of communication between the words of the living and spirit realms. Consequently they were decorated to ward off evil and to act as a magnet for blessings and good fortune. Marco Polo was struck by the visual effect of these brightly coloured tiles, remarking while describing Khubilai Khan`s palace at Dadu (modern day Beijing) The roof is all ablaze with scarlet and green and blue and yellow and all the colours that are, so brilliant varnished that it glitters like crystal and the sparkle of it can be seen from far away. The Chinese had made ceramic tiles from early times but it was the Ming dynasty that saw the largest period of production, much of this was based in Shanxi Province at small family run kilns that passed down from generation to generation. Glazed tile-work is known in China asLiuli Wa, literally `roof-tile of glass`, a term dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-906) although Tang tiles are now very rare. The soft earthenware used to make Ming tiles varies but often is uneven in its constitution with lots of grog. The tiles were mould made with a large amount of hand working, giving a completely hand-made look with lots of sharp detail and undercutting. They were lead glaze and low fired which means the glaze often runs. There were two basic colour schemes used Sancai (greens,yellows and browns) and the darker palette of Fahau (turquoise, blue and purple). The dating of Chinese glazed tiles, which were made over a long period of time with little change, is difficult. Knowing when the building they came from was build doesn`t help as tiles, exposed to the elements, needed replacing from time to time and so a building might contain tiles made over several centuries. However an approximate chronology can be understood, and with the study tile construction replacements can be identified as being different to the genuine Ming examples.