A glazed terracotta roof tile representing the Taoist Immortal Li Tieguai (Li with the iron cane), patron of the doctors, holding in his hand the double gourd containing the elixir of immortality and floating on clouds.
Li Tieguai is one of the 8 Taoist Immortals companions of Shou Lao, the Taoist saint of long life. He is said to be from India, hence his black skin. As we only find this immortal represented with black skin on representations from the beginning or the middle of the Ming dynasty, generally under the reigns of Jiajing or Wanli at the latest, it is likely that this tile of remarkable craftsmanship of power and expressiveness dates from the end of the 16th or the very beginning of the 17th century. We can compare the austere face of the Immortal treated in aubergine glaze with a large statue of a Judge of the Underworld exhibited in the collections of the British Museum in London and whose face has also been treated with this rare and surprising glaze. Under the following dynasty, Li Tieguai's face will undergo a sinization and he will be represented as a Chinese with white skin, which is to be put in perspective with the centralizing policy of the Manchus aimed at unifying the Empire and " smooth "ethnic minorities.
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