Kneeling Anthropomorphic Figure with Tiger Head and Claws

Kneeling Anthropomorphic Figure with Tiger Head and Claws

National Treasure

National Treasure Intro

Many fine marble carvings were unearthed from tomb no. 1001, the king of the Shang dynasty’s tomb, at the Ruins of Yin (Yinxu) in Anyang, Henan. The Kneeling Anthropomorphic Figure with Tiger Head and Claws, which was excavated from this very tomb, is in the collection of the IHP. The marble tiger is 37.1 cm high and weighs 28.5 kg, and is presumed to be a component of a larger piece of architecture based on the grooves on its back. Marble is one the best materials for carving because it is easy to work with, is uniform in color, and has a fine texture.

The works of Shang dynasty craftsmen found at the Ruins of Yin demonstrates that they had already mastered these characteristics of marble, which is why they were able to produce such a lively large-scale sculpture brimming with imagination. It was designated as a “national treasure” by the Ministry of Culture of Taiwan (R.O.C.) in 2009.

National Treasure Appreciation

The Kneeling Anthropomorphic Figure is carved in a kneeling position with its knees bent. Its head is slightly tilted upwards, and its open mouth reveals serrated teeth and canines.

Its eyes are carved resembling the character mu (“eye”). Its nostrils are facing the sky, it has fan-shaped ears, and its hands, which are in the form of claws, are placed on both knees. The whole of its body is decorated with rolling patterns almost resembling scrolls.

There is a vertical groove running through the back and a smaller groove perpendicular to the groove in the tiger’s crotch.

The back groove is shallow at the top and deep at the bottom, forming an oblique angle of about 93 degrees with the bottom surface. It has thus been surmised that the sculpture has been designed to be inserted onto a building, but since it was excavated from a burial pit, its original context has been erased and the actual usage cannot be confirmed.

On the sides of this sculpture, the left and right arms are decorated with dragon patterns.

Looking closely at the object, you can see that it is not a realistic carving of a tiger’s eye, but an engraving of the character mu (“eye”) in oracle bone script, with a lattice pattern on the forehead.



The year 1928 saw the establishment of the Institute of History and Philology (IHP) in Guangzhou, China. In the winter of 1948, the IHP relocated to Taiwan, and in 1954, settled in its current location in Nangang. The IHP is a multidisciplinary research institute with research areas covering history, archaeology, anthropology, and philology. The IHP’s achievements are highly valued in both domestic and international academic circles.

The IHP has a collection of more than 140,000 artifacts. These include more than 120,000 archaeological artifacts excavated and collected when the Institute was in China; more than 10,000 Han dynasty wooden slips from Edsen-gol; and more than 1,000 Chinese ethnographic artifacts. In addition, there is also the archives of the Grand Secretariat that has approximately 310,000 archival documents from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

In 1986, the Museum of the Institute of History and Philology was completed to showcase the collection of the IHP. One of the missions of the Museum is to transcend how traditional exhibition formats display their artifacts or fine works, as well as attaching importance to related research efforts and results. The content of the Museum’s exhibitions includes artifacts excavated from tombs of the Shang and Zhou dynasties as well as the Warring States period, Han dynasty wooden slips from Edsen-gol, rare texts, materials contained in the archives of the Grand Secretariat, artifacts from ethnic groups of Southwest China, ink rubbings, and Taiwanese archaeological data and findings. Through the presentation of these artifacts and various educational activities, the IHP shares its latest findings with the broader public.

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