A fresh item to Moorabool is this quirky Ming Dynasty roof tile figure. As the name suggests, these were part of the roof decoration on Chinese buildings.
Many different ‘characters’ appear as roof tile figures, each with a symbolic purpose. Our Dragon is actually a water dragon, and he would have been the chief character in a whole line of little figures down the crest of the roof junction. He was given this position due to his ‘wet’ nature: he would ensure protection from fire for the wooden building beneath.
A very familiar installation of a similar dragon is in the Forbidden City in Beijing. On the roof of the Hall of Supreme Harmony (circa 1406) you will see 10 small figures (the more figures, the more important the building) – and at their top, a larger dragon – complete with the same toothy grin as our example. He’s done a good job as fire warden, protecting the structure for the past 400 years…. Scattered around the acres of other buildings in the complex are numerous other examples of the same.
What’s interesting are their intact ‘horns’, missing from ours. Examine our head and you will see the two holes they were once inserted into.
Another pair reside in the Victoria & Albert Museum, SouthKensington (London). Their pair entered the collection in 1912, and could well be from the same building as ours – all the moulded details are identical, as is the glaze, the only differences being due to the inscribing of details.