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 Home >> Art & Craft >> Tou (Clay doll)

Earthen dolls have are infused with the sprit of their creators

People see Earthen Dolls everywhere, but the shape and character of the dolls will vary according to the period and region in which they were made. Even though they are simply lumps of clay the sprit of the craftsmen seems to somehow reside in the doll.

What is the significance of the Earthen Doll named ¡®Tou?¡¯

¡¯Tou¡¯ literally means doll made of clay. In a broad sense, this relates not only the human form, but also all shapes such as animals and houses.
Ancient earthen dolls were classified according to their uses. There were primarily toys, but some dolls were also used for the enchantment and worship of idols, and other were even made to put into tombs.

The character of the dolls is thought to be region-dependant, and vary just as people from different places do.
People the dolls using a variety of materials such as clay, stone, animal bone, horn, straw and weeds.   Only dolls made of clay, stone, and horn remain, this is largely because the other dolls were often burnt in ancient ceremonies.

In general, Earthen Dolls were used as sacrificil objects for idol worship, or put into a tomb.   Dolls used for idol worship often had the shape of pregnant woman. The dolls were used as a means of praying the richness.

Korean Earthen doll

According Korean scholars the dolls are classified as follows:
-A sort of earthen doll attached to earthenware is called ¡®To Wu¡¯.
-Dolls made for burial accessories in ceremonies are called ¡®To Yong¡¯. (Dolls made for this purpose in the Shilla period are called ¡®To Yong¡¯.)

Some Earthen Dolls produced in the Shilla period still remain today although unfortunately there are no remians from the Goryeo period.   Some White porcelain that was used as part of burial rituals in the Joseon period has been recovered.
In general earthen objects can be classified into three types as follows:
1.Heterogeneous earthenware
2.Earthen dolls made for burial rituals
3.Earthen doll made for decoration

The earthen objects made in the shape of animals and human beings, are similar to those used in Persia.    ¡®To Yong¡¯ objects have the same characteristic as Chinese ¡®To Yong¡¯.   Ancient Japanese earthen dolls called ¡®Seu E Ki¡¯ have a similar shape to Korean dolls used for decoration.   Shilla dolls in the shape of boats, dresses, and dancing and singing figures, allow an insight into the costume and life style of the period.

The size of dolls used for decoration is just 10 cm. It was shaped to reflect the character of the artist even though it has only a simple image.
At first Glance earthen objects look like objects made by children, playing with clay. A closer look portrays the outstanding technique and personal wit within the artwork.
This kind of earthen toy disappears in the period of Goryeo. This phenomenon seems to be influenced by Buddhism. In the period of Joseon, there are some traces of relics such as rare objects. The production of earthenware seems to be influenced by the religion and society of the period
Earthen dolls are empty inside.   Many dolls in the shape of animals are imaginary creatures with heads and a tails of dragons and the body of a tortoise. The body of the tortoise was decorated.
¡®To Yong¡¯, Earthen doll used for burial ceremonies

A ¡®To Yong¡¯ is a solid earthen doll in the shape of a human or animal. The object shape has been described as a human being playing a musical instrument to express sorrow. Though made simply, you can see human features. The distortion and stress in these shapes seem to have links to modern sculpture which is influenced by primitive arts.

¡®Tou¡¯, earthen doll for decoration¡¯

This object for decoration is very small, often less than 10cm. It expresses human emotion by means of gesture and facial expression. The Tou dolls are attached to pots for decoration. They portray the images of birds, tortoises or pregnant women playing the ¡®Gayageum¡¯, a traditional Korean musical instrument.

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