Chinese, Northern Wei dynasty
Early 6th century
limestone with carved and painted decoration
36¾ x 82¾ x 39⅜ in
93.35 x 210.19 x 100.01 cm
Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Imitating wooden household furniture, this stone couch is a rare example of what was used as a platform for supporting a coffin in the burial chamber of a tomb. The design and function of the couch reflect the ancient Chinese belief in immortality, which was popular in early 6th-century China.
These iconographical details have integrated Chinese tradition and Central Asian elements. The front panels of this couch feature painted towers and a wall, as if leading through the entranceway to a private property. Details include molded roof tiles and painted designs of wooden frames and brackets, representing Chinese architectural components of the period. The couch is enclosed by a four-paneled screen that forms the back and sides. The panels are incised with twelve scenes, including a seated couple (the tomb occupants), processions, and Chinese stories of filial piety, which became well known with the growing popularity of Confucius’ teachings. The baseboard and legs are carved with mythological animals including a dragon, the Wind Spirit, and the Thunder Spirit.
The owner and the origin of the couch are unclear. Judging from the pictorial style and the stone construction, it most likely belongs to a local Chinese official from central North China.