|The geometric design on this tile end symbolizes a sacrificial altar (祭坛). It is made of the highest grade of tile found in the Yan State. It was excavated from the ruins of the Yan capital in Yixian county, Hebei province. It is an unusual tile design and calls to mind the rites of the early religions and political entities. Sacrifice was an integral part of both religious and public life and was prescribed by exact customs and rituals. The type of altar you could use, the number of animals you could sacrifice, and the length of the ceremonies were all a reflection of your grade in society. This tile may have come from some official building. Certainly its symbolism would not have been permitted on an ordinary house.
There was a poem quoted by the museum curator from the poem Dream House: "For whom is the sacrificial altar dedicated? How many years and how much grief and sorrow has it heard? How long its experience of the many the vicissitudes of life of Yan country, and how hard the poets have tried to express feelings and pains of the years it has endured!" (rough translation)
Contributions by Liu Yurong
Last update: May 2008
© Marilyn Shea, 2008