Frontal Base of a Funerary Couch Maker: Unknown

6th century

Asian Art

Stone mortuary couches appeared in tombs in northern China during the fifth and sixth centuries. The function of these couches is not entirely clear; they may have been couches designed to support a coffin (guan chuang) or to serve the spirit of the deceased when it periodically revisited the tomb. This is the frontal base of such a couch. Protective creatures are found on each of the three legs: the head of a fantastic beast with bulging eyes and curly mane carved in high relief appears in the center, while two guardian beasts seated in landscape settings appear on the two outer supports. The horizontal area above the legs is decorated with nine mythical beasts and monsters carved in low relief below a border of lotus-petal lappets. The presence of the lotus decoration, which came with Buddhism to China, reflects the pervasiveness of Buddhism in Chinese society by the early sixth century.


Dark gray stone, extensive remains of red, black, and white pigments


76 1/2 in. (194.3 cm)
15 5/8 × 76 1/2 × 5 in. (39.688 × 194.31 × 12.7 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of the Rubin-Ladd Foundation under the bequest of Ester R. Portnow

Accession Number



Northern Dynasties (386–581 C.E.), 6th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Private collection; J.J. Lally & Co. Oriental Art, New York, by March 1996; sold to the Rubin-Ladd Foundation, Georgetown, Conn., and New York, July 2000; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2000
  • Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 128–29, 373, pl. 120, fig. 1 (detail).
  • Gilles Beguin, "A propos du Gang du Musée Cernuschi," Collections parisiennes: bulletin des conservateurs et des personnels scientifiques de la Ville de Paris no. 4 (1998): 18, fig. 2.
  • Early Dynastic China: Works of Art from Shang to Song, exh. cat. (New York: J.J. Lally & Company, 1996), no. 12.
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