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Roof Tile with Phoenixes Holding a Garland
Roof Tile with Phoenixes Holding a Garland, 8th century
Earthenware with molded decoration
2 5/8 x 9 3/4 x 6 5/8 inches (6.7 x 24.8 x 16.8 cm)
Gift of Colonel Stephen McCormick, 1985
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Looking Questions

  • What shapes do you see?
  • What natural forms can you recognize?
  • Of what are these two objects made?
  • How were they decorated?
  • What might they have been used for?
  • Do these objects look old or new?
  • Which part of the tiles is broken?

Art Activity: Create Your Own Tile with Incised Designs

Clay is one of the most ancient materials for making art, and clay tiles have been found in almost all ancient civilizations. Have students make their own tiles. Each student should roll a wedge of clay into a slab about .5 inch thick and form it into a square, circle, or other geometric shape. There are many ways to decorate these tiles. Because they had to make so many, these Korean roof tiles were pressed into a mold. Your students can carve a similar design into their tiles using simple plastic utensils. These tiles contain symbols to bring good fortune to the house. Have your students create their own symbol of good fortune on their tiles.

Group Activity: Good Luck, Bad Luck

These tiles are more than 1,300 years old. The symbols on them are meant to bring good luck. Many professional athletes say they have lucky shirts, colors, hats, baseball bats, etc. Do students still believe in good luck and bad luck? Do they have lucky charms? Make a list on the blackboard of things that are said to bring good luck and bad luck. Finally, have students write a group story in which at least five lucky or unlucky things happen because of items listed on the blackboard.

Research Idea: Rooftops around the World

Roofs are important. They are both utilitarian and decorative. Today, many people live in large apartment buildings in which the roof does not show. In traditional architecture around the world, the roof provided both shelter and a place to display materials, decoration, and style. Have students research rooftops around the world. Of what are roofs made? Why? How does the material vary depending on the climate? What various shapes of roofs can students find? Are roofs in traditional Korean homes different from roofs in Nigeria? Make a bulletin board display of the shapes and materials of roofs around the world.


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