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What was the taotie?

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literaryClarity View Drop Down

Joined: 03 May 2014
Location: Texas
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    Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 09:03
Modern anthropologists can't definitively point out what the Taotie stood for and for what purpose but I think it is pretty obvious.  It is a mascaron of some sort.

From wiki:
In architecture, a mascaron ornament is a face, usually human, sometimes frightening or chimeric whose function was originally to frighten away evil spirits so that they would not enter the building. The concept was subsequently adapted to become a purely decorative element. The most recent architectural style to extensively employ mascarons was Beaux Arts.

Examples of mascaron:

Now look at the taotie in the middle of the arch on one of the few surviving stone bridges in China.

Modern western style brass knocker in the shape of lion's head

Warring states period China style bronze knocker in the shape of Taotie

The Chinese didn't lose sight of how mascarons were used.  The mascaron in the Chinese context had simply changed forms.  The Fu lions/dogs at entrances to Chinese buildings of state and tomb walkways may look different from the recognized shape of a Taotie but they feature the same usage patterns.  I think mascarons are pretty universal in human culture and we just call them by different names.

Edited by literaryClarity - 26 Sep 2014 at 09:06
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