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You Si Kong Tile End 太有司空瓦当

You Si Kong Tile End
Pottery Designs from the Western Han Dynasty 西汉 206 BC - 8 AD

Office Building Construction Tile

The Han dynasty continued the system developed under the Qin dynasty to handle the complexity of problems faced by large government with vast territories to manage and govern. The Han dynasty of Liu Bang had a huge bureaucratic organization for the centralization of state power. To identify the different buildings and their functions the tile ends of the roof contained either the names of the buildings or the functions of the building. It was a cool way to create signage, but if you changed the function, you had to change the roof! Later, signs were painted plaques above doors which could be changed more easily.

In the collection in the museum a variety of tiles of different functions can be seen. "Shàng Lín" 上林, "Shàng Lín Nóng Guān" 上林农官, "Yòu Kōng" 右空, "Dū Sī Kōng" 都司空, "Wèi" 卫 etc., are all examples of the names of different groups or administrators. For instance, Shang Lin is the name of a district, the Shang Lin Nong Guan is the agricultural office of Shang Lin, and Du Si Kong is the city government office.

The tile end shown above dates to the Western Han dynasty. Yòu Sī Kōng means Right Official Office. In Chinese building complexes there are courtyards surrounded by offices and covered corridors. The buildings are often designated by "left" and "right" for building which face one another. It would be equivalent to saying the east or west wing. Since government complexes always had a north south axis, right and left were always east and west.

China Index >> Historical Beijing in Pictures >> Neolithic and Early Dynasty Pottery and Roof Tiles

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Last update: September 2013
© Marilyn Shea, 2013