Compare two relief carvings of standing phoenixes, with almost vertically raised tails and heads turned backwards, as seen here, from the von der Heydt collection, illustrated in Osvald Sirén, Chinese Sculptures in the von der Heydt Collection, Zurich, 1959, pl. 37. Sirén describes these birds as supports for an arch over one of the broad niches in cave no. 16 at Tianlongshan in Shanxi province. This Buddhist cave temple complex, dating from the mid-sixth century, represents the Tang dynasty style of religious carving when the sensuous and voluptuous sculptural form came into fashion.
See also a slightly earlier, Northern Wei period, relief carving of a phoenix published in Yungang shiku [Yungang grottoes], Beijing, 1977, pl. 40, from cave no. 8 at the Yungang cave complex near Datong, Shanxi province, which may have served as the blueprint for later carvings.
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