Skip to Content
Today Open today 10–11 members | 11–8 public

Immortals Riding Dragons: Section of a Tomb Pediment

A work made of gray earthenware with traces of slip and polychrome pigments.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

Image actions

  • A work made of gray earthenware with traces of slip and polychrome pigments.


Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), 1st century


China; probably from Henan province

About this artwork

These triangular sculptures originally fit under the pitched roof of a burial chamber constructed of clay bricks. The position of similar panels discovered intact suggests that they originally formed two ends of a pediment that divided a chamber in half.

The panels are carved and painted to depict winged figures mounted on dragons striding over hills or waves. In Han mythology, such beings are described as immortals (xian). Having achieved eternal life, these immortals were endowed with the power to fly and roamed freely about the universe. The depiction of these remarkable beings in tombs reflects a widespread belief that the soul of the deceased could leave its earth-bound existence, ascend to heaven, and become an immortal. The ascent of the soul to the realm of the immortals is a major theme in Han art.


On View, Gallery 133


Arts of Asia


Immortals Riding Dragons: Section of a Tomb Pediment


China (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

206 BCE–220 CE


Gray earthenware with traces of slip and polychrome pigments

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Gordon Palmer

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

Learn more.

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions