Object of the Month - November

Symbolic architectural adornments from the Ming dynasty

To mark the opening of Ming: The Golden Empire in Palma de Mallorca, Spain on 3 November, 2016 at CaixaForum Palma, the object of the month for November focuses on the magnificent architectural objects within the exhibition’s collection.

As traditional Chinese buildings were predominantly wooden, many decorative architectural ornaments were symbolically associated with water and placed on the roof to protect the building against fire. Roofs were also, particularly through use of colour, indicators of building function and of social status.

The primary function of the roof in Ming China was, of course, protection from the elements. However, they also held an important supernatural role; the rooftops of ancient China were decorated with figures, zoomorphic ornaments and motifs which were thought to ward off evil spirits.

The architectural ornaments featured in the exhibition are exceptional examples of architectural craftsmanship dating from the Hongwu reign (1368 – 1398).  

1.Tile-end in the Form of a Dragon Earthenware with low-fired yellow and green glazes Height 16 cm, width 2 cm, depth 10 cm Hongwu reign (1368-1398) Nanjing Museum In China, dragons are associated with water, and so this roof ornament would have been expected to protect against fire.

1.Tile-end in the Form of a Dragon

Earthenware with low-fired yellow and green glazes

Height 16 cm, width 2 cm, depth 10 cm

Hongwu reign (1368-1398)

Nanjing Museum

In China, dragons are associated with water, and so this roof ornament would have been expected to protect against fire.

2. Tile-end in the Form of a Lion Earthenware with low-fired yellow and green glazes Height 19.5 cm Hongwu reign (1368-1398) Nanjing Museum Lions have a protective function in traditional Chinese culture, and were placed in pairs outside many Buddhist temples and official buildings.

2. Tile-end in the Form of a Lion

Earthenware with low-fired yellow and green glazes

Height 19.5 cm

Hongwu reign (1368-1398)

Nanjing Museum

Lions have a protective function in traditional Chinese culture, and were placed in pairs outside many Buddhist temples and official buildings.

3. Ridge Tile in the Form of a Fish Earthenware with low-fired green glaze Height 27.8 cm, width 26 cm Hongwu reign (1368-1398) Nanjing Museum This ornamental roof figure depicts a fish, most likely a carp. With its very obvious association with water, it would have been intended to protect against fire.

3. Ridge Tile in the Form of a Fish

Earthenware with low-fired green glaze

Height 27.8 cm, width 26 cm

Hongwu reign (1368-1398)

Nanjing Museum

This ornamental roof figure depicts a fish, most likely a carp. With its very obvious association with water, it would have been intended to protect against fire.

4. Roof Final in the Form of a Budding Lotus Flower Earthenware with low-fired green glaze Height 39.4 cm, width 22.5 cm Hongwu reign (1368-1398) Nanjing Museum This glazed roof final is in the form of a closed lotus bud. The lotus flower is a Buddhist symbol.

4. Roof Final in the Form of a Budding Lotus Flower

Earthenware with low-fired green glaze

Height 39.4 cm, width 22.5 cm

Hongwu reign (1368-1398)

Nanjing Museum

This glazed roof final is in the form of a closed lotus bud. The lotus flower is a Buddhist symbol.

See these unique architectural motifs in Ming: The Golden Empire exhibition, which is on display at CaixaForum Palma, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain from 3 November 2016 to 19 February 2017.