Figures of supernatural beings as temple guardians. Polychrome and gilt wood. China. Ming–Qing dynasties, AD 16th–18th c. Donated by Efthalia Constantinides (41562).
Similar humanoid figures with grotesque faces and military attire are inspired by Daoist beliefs and, when four in number, represent guardians of the four cardinal points. Guardian pairs such as this one (哼哈二将, heng ha er jiang) usually stand on either side of Buddhist temples. They wear body armour and their frightening faces, surrounded by flames, were meant to be apotropaic and avert evil spirits.