The Tile Cat

    The tile cat is a kind of traditional statuettes based on the image of tigers, which is a unique traditional architecture decoration and one of Yunnan’s folk handicraft arts. In Yunnan, the tile cat is more like a totem and a mascot especially found of Bai and Naxi people. 


    If we look further into its origin, we will find the decorative details of roofs are always an important part of traditional buildings, and it is connected to the beasts' statuettes on Chinese traditional architectures. People believe that they not only satisfy aesthetic needs but also serve security demands.



        The tile cat is also named “Roof Ridge Beast” or “Good Fortune Tiger”. Although the tile cat is named as “cat” it actually implies “tiger”. With fierceness and fearlessness, the two distinguished characteristics of the tiger, the tile cat are believed to have the ability to protect the house and people who live here. It was serving as the guardian for people's courtyards is unique to Yunnan province.



    Local builders always put a tile cat on the top of the front gate or on the roof ridge of the center room. With its back to the courtyard, the tile cat stares at the sky, guarding the house tirelessly, which makes it the most reliable guardian in people's minds.



    The process of making the tile cat is very complicated, which includes ten steps in general. The craftsmen will start by collecting and storing clay, and then start to make the tile cat from the base part. After the tile cat’s base is completed, they will start to make its legs, then bodies, tails, and the last part-heads. Once the carving and decoration are completed, they will stamp their own marks on the back of one leg. Most of the time, the tile cats will be aired in the yard until the mud is completely dried and then will be fired in the kiln.



    The sculpture of a tile cat starts from the base, Kneading upwards steadily and attaching different parts. The whole process requires no model, no fixed style, and it’s all based on handicraft techniques. The sculpts of the tile cats are varied, and different craftsmen give their tile cats different expressions.



    These fired tile cats shake off the color of thick mud, and become solemn. Nowadays, with China's development and prosperity, the tile cat is known by more and more people around the world. They will either squat on the ridge of the roof, becoming a piece of the artwork. 



    The rapid development of information technology today has led human beings into an information society, but even in modern society, people have paid more and more attention to Chinese traditional culture than before. This kind of traditional culture companies our growth all the time, which has already rooted in our daily lives.



    Nowadays, the tile cats are taking on new forms in our daily lives: as museum cultural creation products, like home decorations, even as a part of the teacups, etc. There has always been an interesting relationship between the preservation of cultural heritage and the development of technology. The tile cat is a brilliant example of combining tradition with modernity integrating art into life.


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