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Grouped together here are corbels, a type of architectural support used in the doorways and balconies of traditional Chinese homes.

Look closely at the left side of this corbel. At the bottom you'll see a woman and her child. They are refusing to give alms to a Buddhist monk. On the opposite side, higher up in the carving, scholars are examining scrolls, and, near the top, Daoist religious figures fly through the air. The composition references the Chinese Confucian idea of hierarchy, where women and children are at the bottom of society. Buddhist monks are there, too, because they reject scholarly pursuits and require followers to leave their families. Above them in the hierarchy are scholars and officials, and then the gods.

Take some time to enjoy all the different corbels here. You'll see depictions of folkloric characters, deities and dragons, animals—like phoenixes, oxen, horses pigs—and even plants. These were all originally painted—in fact, you can still see traces of color on many of them.

As many of China's older homes have been demolished to make way for modern construction, corbels have become collector's items. The Bowers Museum has more than 30 sets.

Step26-Architectural Corbels, China


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