During the Tang Dynasty, restrictions were placed on the number of objects that could be included in tombs, an amount determined by an individual's social rank. In spite of the limitations, a striking variety of tomb furnishings have been excavated. Entire retinues of ceramic figures--animals, entertainers, musicians, guardians--were buried with the dead. This pair of dynamic warriors bares a striking resemblance to the Buddhist warrior deities known as Lokapalas that have their origins as protectors of Buddhist temples but assumed a mortuary role in China. However, these warriors do not stand in the traditional stance of the Lokapala, subduing a demon or triumphing over a recumbent beast. Although these figures are slightly different, we can assume their role in the afterlife would have been the same.
The warriors are poised for battle, protected by a layer of intricately painted armor and crowned by pointed helmets. They stand, alert and confident, with one hand resting on their waist and the other extended outwards. Originally, they would have likely brandished a weapon of sort, perhaps a sword or a spear, which was made of a material such as wood that deteriorated over the centuries. A remarkable amount of the original polychrome is still visible, specifically on their faces and armor. One can even still see the individual hairs of their beards and moustaches that have been painted onto their pink faces. According to one Chinese tradition explaining their origin, the emperor Taizong when ill was threatened by ghosts outside of his room screeching and throwing bricks and tiles. When his general Jin Shubao (Chin Shu-pao) and a fellow officer came to stand guard the activity of the ghosts ceased. The grateful emperor had portraits of the two men hung on either side of his palace gates, and thereafter their images became widespread as door-gods. Although they were intended to protect the tomb and ward off any infiltrators, be they tomb robbers or malevolent spirits, these warriors do not repel us; instead, their compelling history and stunning aesthetic beauty attracts us to them.