Tomb model of a watch tower

Historical period(s)
Eastern Han dynasty, 2nd century
Earthenware with copper-green lead-silicate glaze
H x W: 84.4 x 44 cm (33 1/4 x 17 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Model

Tomb model: watch tower

China, copper-green lead glaze, earthenware, Eastern Han dynasty (25 - 220), iridescence, tower

To 1907
Unidentified owner, China, to 1907 [1]

From 1907 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased in China from an unidentified owner in 1907 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Pottery List, L. 1532, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


A tower of two stories, each protected by its own roof, stands in a bowl-shaped moat containing small models of swans, frogs, turtles, and fish. Perching birds and human sentries are located at the four corners of each level. Earthenware towers, such as the one seen here, are sometimes found among the grave goods in tombs from the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 C.E.), and are often covered in a green glaze that has developed a slight iridescence from prolonged burial. The Eastern Han was an unsettled period and these structures may represent the kind of fortified towers in which landowners and their families sought refuge during times of warfare and social turmoil. The balustrades and bracketing system of the roofs illustrate some basic elements of the Chinese architectural tradition during the first centuries of the common era.

Published References
  • Dr. Berthold Laufer. Chinese Clay Figures. Field Museum of Natural History Anthropological Series, vol. 8 Chicago. pl. 19.
  • Oriental Ceramics: The World's Great Collections. 12 vols., Tokyo. vol. 10, pl. 7.
  • Robert L. Hobson. Chinese Pottery and Porcelain: An Account of the Potter's Art in China from Primitive Times to the Present Day. 2 vols., New York and London. vol. 1: pl. 4.
  • Thomas Dexel. Les Terres Cuites Chinoises. Paris. p. 15.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 62.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 71, fig. 47.
  • Thomas Lawton. China's Artistic Legacy. vol. 118, no. 258 London, August 1983. p. 134.
  • Dr. Berthold Laufer. Religious and Artistic Thought in Ancient China. vol. 6, no. 6, December 1917. p. 301.
  • Henri Maspero. Etudes d'Orientalisme. vol. 2, Paris. pp.403-418.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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