Qitou, also called earth spirits, are guardians of tombs in China. They are clay figures that are sometimes glazed. They were popular during the Tang Dynasty from the 7th to the 10th centuries. The main reason Qitou are outside of the tombs is to keep bad influences out of the tombs and to keep the spirits inside the tomb so they do not wander the earth. They are found in pairs outside the tombs. Spirits who want to wander the Earth have encountered difficulty on their way to the afterlife.
The Qitou take the shape of elaborate and heightened animal forms. They can have different heads and wings coming out of their legs. They have also been depicted with human heads on an animal body. All of them usually have flames or crests and horns. The flames may be a representation of the dragon, which is a highly regarded symbol. Dragons symbolize strength, power, and eternal life. Qitou representing lions generally have exaggerated manes with flames and wings. Lions are a symbol of protection in Chinese culture.
The semi-human Qitou have enlarged and longer ears. The elongated ears may date back to the Buddha. The Buddha was born wealthy and his ears stretched from the gold and silver earring he wore. When he gave up his jewelry and other possessions his ears remained long. The bare, elongated earlobes are a sign of spiritual enlightenment.