Pi-hsieh, archaic jade amulet

Han dynasty (206 B.C. - A.D. 220)
Han dynasty (206 B.C. - A.D. 220)

The name of this fabulous beast is from the Chinese pi-hsieh, "to avoid evil"; it served as an amulet for warding off evil spirits. It was often buried in the tombs of nobles for this purpose during the Han dynasty. Shaped much like a toy, it was also presented as a talisman to relatives and friends. Shown here is a winged pi-hsieh rendered in gray-green jade with yellowish-brown mottling. Its head is tilted back and somewhat to the side, its back arched and tail switching in a grand and lively pose. The haunches are tensed, the eyes wide and alert, the pointed snout raised to the scent; the menacing jaws let out a warning growl to some lurking foe.

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