Song Dynasty Tile of a Foreigner, China (1516A-BOK) $475


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

This fascinating thick Song pottery brick is a low-fired depiction of a  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 very wise. Images of dwarfs became so popular, some were produced in numbers.





Stone reliefs or mold made earthenware brick tiles were made for ancestor-worship and to decorate doors and the walls of tombs, temples and other structures from the Han Dynasty onwards. As China expanded its trade along the Silk Roads in the Song dynasty, foreign artistic influences began to be seen in the expanded use of earthenware tiles to adorn government, religious, private and even funerary mingqi tiles. Chinese cities were hosts to traders, travelers and different religions, and families of the departed honoring deceased family members wished to be seen as familiar with artistic trends and overseas influences. Tiles with a foreigner’s portrait or imported architectural design elements were used in tombs to please the deceased in the afterlife. Even 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 seen as auspicious figures able to attract fu (blessings) and were depicted on these tiles. As most ancient buildings containing these tiles were not reinforced, most many were eventually damaged by earthquakes, floods, fires and war. This piece is in remarkably good condition with the top right corner reattached and has an aged patina with expected slip and polychrome losses, burial residue and expected scrapes and rough surfaces attesting to its age and tomb burial tomb. With a wall mount addition, it would be a dramatic wall piece.


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
Place of Origin



Ancient, Song Dynasty



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)

Item Number


Shipping Box Size