Antique Song Tile of a Foreigner, China (1516A-BOK)


H: 6.875”  W: 5.25”  D: 2.25 | FREE SHIPPING

This fascinating thick Song pottery brick is a low-fired pottery depiction of a seated dwarf foreigner with a rotund belly, a large head and nose, an open mouth and abnormal features. The Chinese believed dwarfs could ward off evil spirits and sickness, attract peace and blessings (fu) and were wise. Images of dwarfs became so popular, some were mass-produced.



Mould made rectangular earthenware brick tiles were made as ancestral items to decorate doors and the walls of tombs, temples and other structures from the Han Dynasty onwards. When China expanded its trade along the Silk Roads in the Song Dynasty, foreign artistic influences could be seen even in the art of funerary mingqi tiles. Chinese cities became hosts of traders, travelers and different religions, and families of the departed taking care of deceased family members wished to be seen as familiar with artistic trends and overseas influences. Tiles with a foreigner’s portrait or an imported architectural design element began to be used even in tombs to please the deceased in the afterlife. Court dwarfs imported along the Silk Roads by Han Emperor Wu Di  were sold, traded, gifted and used as slaves servants, entertainers, jesters and storytellers and were auspicious figures to attract fu were also depicted on brick tiles. As most ancient buildings containing these tiles were not reinforced many were eventually damaged by earthquakes, floods, fires and war. This piece is in remarkably good condition with the top right corner reattached, an aged patina, slip and polychrome losses, burial residue and expected scrapes and rough surfaces attesting to its age and long burial in a tomb. With a wall mount this would be a dramatic wall-art piece. This is part of the VA Antique-Chinese-Ceramics-and-Pottery Collection.


Liuyin Wu, “The portrayal of people with dwarfism in Chinese art,” wiley online library

Jessica Rawson, “Tombs and tomb furnishing of the Eastern Han period (AD 25-220)” in Robert Bagley (Ed.), Ancient Sichuan: Treasures from a lost civilization (p. 297). Seattle, Princeton University Press, 2001.

Additional information

Dimensions 12 × 9 × 6 in

Ancient, Song Dynasty


Song Dynasty 960-1127

Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 6.875” W: 5.25” D: 2.25”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 17.46cm W: 13.33cm D: 5.71cm


Very good, has restorations/repairs (see description)

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size


6” to 11.9”