Frontal from the base of a funerary couch with Sogdian musicians and dancers and Buddhist divinities

Historical period(s)
Northern Qi dynasty, Period of Division, Northern Qi dynasty, 550-577
Grey marble with traces of pigment
H x W x D: 60.3 x 234 x 23.5 cm (23 3/4 x 92 1/8 x 9 1/4 in)
China, Henan province, Probably Ce xian
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 16: Center of the World: China and the Silk Road
Sculpture, Stone

Couch (fragment)

China, dance, funerary, musician, Northern dynasties (386 - 581), Northern Qi dynasty (550 - 577), Period of Division (220 - 589), relief

To 1915
Lai-Yuan and Company, New York to 1915 [1]

From 1915 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Lai-Yuan and Company in 1915 [2]

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


[1] See Original Miscellaneous List, S.I. 684, pg. 164, 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
Lai-Yuan & Company (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1915-April 1921


This is the front of a funerary couch, or platform, that supported a coffin. Scholars suggest it was made for Cave 4 at northern Xiangtangshan; it was rare, however, for a Buddhist cave to serve as a burial place. The couch is also unusual for its combination of Persian and Chinese elements. In the center, the censer topped by a bird and flanked by heavenly beings is a typical Chinese Buddhist image. The musicians and dancers in the pearl-encircled roundels represent secular Central Asian entertainers depicted in a Persian style.

Published References
  • Lin Sheng-chih. "圖像與裝飾:北朝墓葬的生死表象." Image and Decoration: The Life and Death of the Northern Tombs. Taipei, Taiwan. Cover, p. 227, 235, Cover, fig. 5-6, 5-12, and 5-13.
  • Chugoku bijutsu [Chinese Art in Western Collections]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. vol. 3: pl. 51.
  • Emma C. Bunker. The Spirit Kings in Sixth Century Chinese Buddhist Sculpture. vol. 18 Honolulu. vol. 18: p. 33, fig. 19.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, 1960-1966. vol. 15, pl. 6.
  • Mizuno Seiichi. Bronze and Stone Sculpture of China: From the Yin to the Tang dynasty. Tokyo. pls. 70-71.
  • Laurence Sickman, Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. The Pelican History of Art London and Baltimore. pl. 40-41.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century: Over 900 Specimens in Stone, Bronze, Lacquer and Wood, Principally from Northern China. 4 vols., London. vol. 4: pl. 444-445.
  • Sigisbert Chrétien Bosch Reitz. Catalogue of an Exhibition of Early Chinese Pottery and Sculpture. Exh. cat. New York. pl. 330.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 76, vol. 1: p. 172.
  • Gustina Scaglia. Central Asians on a Northern Ch'i Gate Shrine. vol. 21, no. 1 Washington and Zurich. p. 11, fig. 1.
  • Sascha Priewe. Das Zhangdefu-Sargbett; Grundlegende Fragen Erneut Gestellt [Re-examination of a Sogdian Funerary Bed]. vol. 17 Berlin. pp. 15-24.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 39.
  • Thomas Lawton. China's Artistic Legacy. vol. 118, no. 258 London, August 1983. p. 132.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 223, fig. 156.
  • Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst. Buddhistische plastik aus China and Japan. Exh. cat. Cologne. p. 279.
  • Mrs. Hin-cheung Lovell. Some Northern Chinese Wares of the Sixth and Seventh Centuries. vol. 21, no. 4, Winter 1975. pp. 328-343, fig. 31.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
The Sogdians
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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