Antique Song Tile of Musician with Lute, China (3998BOK)


H: 9”  W: 9”  D: 2.25” | FREE SHIPPING

This thick heavy Song brick tile portrays a seated female musician holding a lute on her lap in a hall with attendants on each side and third person in the distance. The scene is framed in a decorative wide border with a pointed ogee arch, a style borrowed from Indian art. As most ancient buildings containing these pieces used traditional un-reinforced fired mud/brick construction, they were subject to disasters like earthquakes, floods, fires, and war so that few survived intact and often require repair and restoration.


During the Song Dynasty earthenware unglazed brick tiles made using a mould were produced to decorate inner chamber walls of tombs and government and public buildings. When used as funerary decorations to wish the deceased comfort in the afterlife, they are examples of mingqi and part of ancestral honor. Subjects of brick tiles include holiday celebrations and mythology and often included decorative  animals, plants and trees and other auspicious objects. This scene’s top is framed by a decorative curved wide border with a pointed ogee arch (an Indian artistic tradition) framing a musician with an attendant on each side. Ancient China was home to numerous musical instruments including a variety of wood lutes with sound boxes of varying sizes and shapes and differing numbers of strings. Long favored by scholars and literati as producing subtle melodic music, they were referred to as “Chinese lute” or “ancient lute.” Playing a lute is one of the Four Scholarly Pursuits (siyi) played since the Warring States Period where lutes were found in ancient tombs attesting to their importance. By the Tang Dynasty they were the most widespread and popular Chinese musical instrument along with flutes, drums and cymbals and were performed in different regional styles and techniques. This tile piece is in fair/good condition with some restoration of the background, earth adherents, expected chips, cracks and paint losses and with some white slip and paint remaining. With an appropriate mount it would make a great wall art decoration. This is part of the VA Antique-Chinese-Ceramics-and-Pottery Collection.


The Helen E. Fernald, “Ancient Chinese Musical Instruments as Depicted on Some of the Early Monuments in the Museum, Museum Journal, University of Pennsylvania Museum Journal, Volume XVII, No 4, originally published 1929

Ingrid Furniss, “Unearthing China’s Informal Musicians: An Archaeological and Textural Study of the Shang to Tang Periods,” Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 41 (2009), pp. 23-41, Cambridge University Press. in jstor

Additional information

Weight 15 lbs
Dimensions 18 × 12 × 16 in
Place of Origin



Ancient, Song Dynasty


Song Dynasty 960-1127

Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

: Ht: 9” W: 9” D: 2.25”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 17.78cm W: 12.7cm D: 7.62cm


7lbs 5oz


Good to fair, see description

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size