Ornamental Fitting

  • China
  • China, Western Han period
  • 2nd to 1st centuries B.C.
  • Bronze with gilding
  • D-5
Catalogue Entry

The exquisite gold-covered surface of this fitting forms a striking contrast with its animated shape: a tiger's head shown with its mouth wide open in a roar. A near-identical fitting with turquoise-inlaid eyes suggests that the now-empty sockets of the present example might also have been inlaid.1 Molded sweeping curves describe the ears and jaws, their elegant forms echoed by similarly rhythmic sweeps of amalgam gilding. Even the interior of the mouth carries golden motifs, which suggest the tongue and glottis of the tiger. Small holes near the end of the rectangular socket allowed pins to secure the fitting to the end of a post.

Although its delicate size and small socket do not support its function as a chariot fitting, bronze tiger heads similar in size, one of which also lavishly gilded with similar patterns, have been found, one to each group of chariot remains, in an early second-century B.C. chariot pit at Linyi Zibo, Shandong province.2

1. Osaka 1991, no. 213.
2. Kaogu xuebao 1985.2, p. 249, fig. 23.3.